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The Key to Telling Unforgettable Stories

Have you ever watched a movie that made you cry? Do you know that Aesop’s Fables have been around for over two thousand years? Well, I am getting ahead of myself here.

Come with me on a brief journey. Let us explore why some stories last for thousands of years, while others last no longer than a few seconds. First, I wish to say humans crave good stories just as babies crave adult attention and nurturing.

The part of the human brain known as the amygdala is responsible for encoding and storing human experiences. It does this in collaboration with the hippocampus. The Hippocampal (the part of the brain that looks like a sea horse), or long-term memories inform the way we make decisions.

The amygdala works like a gatekeeper. It plays an important role in emotion-based (fear) memory formation.  Psychologists refer to such memories as episodic memories. This is where effective storytelling comes in. Why? Because effective storytelling can stir up an emotional response.

In a typical fear-conditioning situation, a subject learns how a stimulus predicts an adverse event by virtue of its pairing. In everyday human experience, this type of learning often occurs. For example, if a neighbor’s dog bit you, the next time you encounter this dog, you might have a fear response. This is an everyday example of fear or episodic conditioning.

For humans, it is also possible to learn about the emotional significance of stimuli in the environment through verbal communication. You might have a similar fear response to the neighborhood’s dog if your neighbor had previously told you that it was a brutal dog that might bite you if you attempted to trespass. This is where the power of effective storytelling comes in.

Effective storytelling does not need episodic moments to happen. No! All it needs is the right combination of words or phrases like “wild dogs,” or “enter at your own risk” to get an emotional response. Have you ever watched a movie that made you cry? That is what great business leaders do every day. They make us learn, laugh or cry by using well-crafted stories.

Great leaders leverage our hippocampal complex to inform, instruct and inspire. When they use fearful stimuli in their narratives, they stimulate fear in us. On the contrary, when they use fascinating imagery in their stories, they can transport us into a future we yearn to see. Think about “I have a dream,” or “In 10 years, I want to put a man on the moon…”

Therefore, if you want to tell unforgettable stories, pay close attention to the way you craft and tell your stories. First, keep your stories simple and authentic. If you are a teacher, or leader, you can take advantage of the way you engage your followers with stories that help them see or feel the urgency of the future you want to co-create with them. You can transport them with your stories!

To do this effectively i.e., to capture the amygdala, use clear, specific, evocative language that is wrapped with novelty, sensory details, intrigue, and surprises that keep the amygdala glued. Remember not to overstimulate, otherwise, the amygdala will soon suffer from sensory fatigue.

When you meet your prospects and you want to be unforgettable, tell them your backstory. Why are you doing what you do? This will separate you from others. This will make you unforgettable because your stories will create semantic memories that are like episodic memories.

Dare to be unforgettable with your backstory stories.

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