A lot of small businesses struggle to communicate well. In this article, we’ll discuss why it is and what to do about it.
How do we better communicate with our customers is a question many companies ask. The answer is simple, storytelling. While mathematics is the language of the universe, stories are the language of humans. So, the answer is simple like doing a pushup, but hard to do like doing a pushup.
All humans tell stories usually in the form of a narrative. When you meet someone or have an experience, whether positive or negative, you start to create a description, in your head, about that interaction.
You might meet someone for the first time and begin to think I like this person because of X trait, or I don’t like this person because of Y trait even though your perception of who that person is might be completely inaccurate. Regardless of being right or wrong, we start to weave a narrative in our heads because this is how we store and recall information more efficiently.
Facts vs. Stories
Think about the last time you had to sit through a lengthy PowerPoint presentation with what seemed like a thousand slides of data in the form of graphs, charts, numbers, etc. Can you recall all that information? The answer is probably some of the data but not the whole set of data. Facts presented as data are rarely tied to emotion, and without emotion, there isn’t any desire to take action. If no action is taken with the information presented, then the whole exercise is a wasted effort. Let’s dive a little deeper into the problem.
In science, the “Forgetting Curve” shows that within one hour, people will have forgotten around 50% of the information you presented. Within 24 hours, approximately 70%, and within a week, an average of 90% of new information is gone. Why do we lose so much information?
The short answer is that the human brain is highly efficient at usage and focus. The brain wants to burn fewer calories in day-to-day operations, so it’s always looking to maximize efficiency by focusing on 1 or 2 essential things. If you remember what you had for lunch last Tuesday, what you watched on tv two months ago plus where you parked your car, you’re using up calories and space to remember things that aren’t relevant.
When we hear facts, only two parts of our brain respond. The Broca handles language and processing, and the Wernicke, which is responsible for language comprehension. However, when we hear stories, six different areas of the brain began to activate. These areas are Motor, Emotions, Smells, Amygdala, Visual, and Memory. Essentially, stories enable 3x more cortexes of the brain to activate than facts and numbers alone.
When all these cortexes are active, we have an interesting phenomenon happen called “transportation,” transportation is where we begin to imagine ourselves in the story. When we see ourselves in a story and start to synchronize with the narrative, we gain a clearer understanding of what the speaker is intending. And when we have a clearer understanding of the intent, we start to care more about the information because we can see why it’s relevant to us.
Story In Action
Once you draw people in through a narrative, then you can spur them to action. For instance, if you want to change company behavior, you can’t just go around saying we need to have better processes and then talk about many stats on efficiency. People will listen because they have to, but they will rarely move or act on numbers alone.
However, if you were to tell them a story about how better processes saved lives, then the information would become more compelling. The same goes for selling things. If you go up to someone and say buy this pen, they would ask why. So you might tell them all the great features and benefits of the pen, like it’s leak-proof, or handcrafted, etc. This pen might get some people interested while others wouldn’t care.
If you instead said that a past president previously owned said pen. Then went on to tell how LBJ used that pen to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964 well this makes for a much more exciting story and a considerably more interesting pen. Even if you’re not a collector or history buff, you can easily understand that this pen has more value than the pen with a bunch of fancy features.
This is the power of storytelling. It can draw us in, provoke us to action, change our thinking, and entertain us all simultaneously. This is why storytelling is the language of humans and why using story helps better communicate with everyone.