I was always good at thinking on my feet.
From a young age I was always the “performer” in my family and would always be putting on a show at family gatherings. So, it was no surprise that when I had the opportunity to join Regina’s premiere improv company, Hitchhikers Improv, that I jumped on the opportunity.
Improv has taught me so much more than how to expressively and humorously get my point across; it has had ripple effects into how I communicate in everyday life too!
Being understood is everything in business and in life. Being at a loss for words can be everything too – and not in a good way! Under communicating, miscommunicating, and over communicating can be a mine field that can affect everything from opportunities, to team morale and especially the bottom line
But, I have a solution: improvise!
There is one main takeaway I’ve picked up from being on stage that has enhanced my communication skills it is this:
Don’t Listen to Respond, Listen to Understand!
Often during a conversation, we are simply listening to what the other person is saying and waiting to respond and get our message across. We seem to miss the step of “understanding”.
Something I’ve learned from improv, however, is that if you simply listen to respond, the “wants” of your respective characters can go in completely different directions and the scene feels jumbled and without meaning. If you listen to understand , you can fully react to what the person you are communicating with is looking for and how that may fit in with your own ideas which allows the scene, or the business, to run a lot more smoothly.
Along with learning how to listen with intent, learning to improvise has also given me the ability to rapidly think on my feet and trust those around me to carry on the “story” if I draw a blank. That’s how good business teams work too! Knowing when to jump in and knowing when to stand back. It is a creative and intuitive way to be present, and that is just a great way to do business and live life.
Written by: Braedon McLeod
At The Story Co., we fundamentally believe in the power of stories. We know there is power there; that the impact of sharing and hearing stories is inherently valuable. What we didn’t know is that there is scientific research to back up our gut instinct.
Paul Zak wrote a fascinating article about – you guessed it – how stories change the brain. Look at you, reading titles and putting two and two together! I will include a link to the original article at the end so you can check it out and highly recommend reading it. Here are a few things we could not resist highlighting:
Why Stories are Important
Not only are stories are more entertaining, they are also more effective in terms of communication. Zak’s research concludes that personal, emotionally compelling stories are better remembered than a set of facts. They are also a way to connect with strangers. Forming relationships is key as a business.
On a truly base level, Zak says:
“My lab pioneered the behavioural study of oxytocin and has proven that when the brain synthesizes oxytocin, people are more trustworthy, generous, charitable, and compassionate. I have dubbed oxytocin the “moral molecule,” and others call it the love hormone.”
Not included in this quote is Zak’s explanation that during a well told story (well told according to brain chemistry rather than just a dynamic speaker – but there’s a lot of overlap!) the brain produces the oxytocin drug. This is a huge benefit of stories – I see no downside to a more moral society; do you?
On a business level, it makes sense that we would want customers to associate our brand with the feeling they get from producing oxytocin.
So, it’s been established that on a scientific level, stories have the edge. Great! But not so fast – not all stories are created equal. So, how do you make sure that your story is having the desired effect?
How to tell a Good Story
Zak’s team found that there are two primary aspects: the ability to hold the viewer’s attention; and “transporting” them into the world of the character.
In today’s fast moving, multitasking world it can be incredibly hard to grab the attention of a consumer. Zak holds that on an evolutionary level we are programed to use our “attention spotlight” sparingly. He says:
In fact, using one’s attentional spotlight is metabolically costly so we use it sparingly. This is why you can drive on the freeway and talk on the phone or listen to music at the same time. Your attentional spotlight is dim so you can absorb multiple informational streams. You can do this until the car in front of you jams on its brakes and your attentional spotlight illuminates fully to help you avoid an accident.
Aside from being an interesting insight into the human desire to multitask – I’m glad to finally have an explanation as to why we turn down the music when we are trying to find a specific street name! That’s a custom that has confused me since the beginning!
Once you have managed to catch the audience’s attention, if it is sustained for long enough, the audience begins to emotionally resonate with the story. This is what Zak refers to as “transportation”, as the audience will feel the character’s emotions and become more invested in the outcome.
Every attention grabbing, “transporting” story can be boiled down to what is referred to by scholars as “the dramatic arc”:
- Begin with something new and surprising;
- Increased tension with difficulties the characters must overcome – often because of some failure or past crisis;
- Climax, where the characters must look inside themselves to find the answer;
The resolution of the story.
Do you recognize these elements in any of your favourite tales? I know I do! Do you recognize them in your favourite brand stories?
Another interesting note for businesses: Zak’s research found that it was easier to sustain people’s attention and to generate “transportation” when the medium was a video rather than written.
This means it’s time to fully embrace the video trend on social media! Not only is there an advantage in terms of the algorithms, but there’s a neurological advantage too!
There’s no denying the power of story. We know that through our own experiences with a strong story, and now we know it through science too! So what are you waiting for? Tell us your story.
The link to the original article, as promised:
Written by Story Co. collaborator Emily Brenner
Owning a manufacturing company taught me it’s not all about the journey.
My first business manufactured and exported a line of women’s clothing. We were small and yet we were filling orders for 320 retailers in the U.S and 130 across Canada.
We had a lot to learn.
One of the most memorable lessons was from a manufacturing consultant we brought in from Montreal. He took one look at our production line and started moving stations. I didn’t quite know what to do. It was chaotic and he was very determined, working quickly and silently.
When his masterpiece was complete he said, “ There you go!” as if presenting us with a work of art. And I said, “imagine that” which is my default comment when I haven’t a clue what is going on. “Your efficiency, rate of production and morale will double,” he continued. I wasn’t quite getting it but I liked the sound of the potential results.
The answer was changing our production line to a production circle, so that everyone could see and be connected to the finished garments. Previously those at the start of the production line never saw the finished goods, which caused a disconnect with success and made their tasks seem endless and unimportant.
I have never forgotten that lesson, and although I am no longer a manufacturer, when I connect people with “finished goods”, the end goal, the results achieved, there is always a well-deserved and deep sense of accomplishment. Humans need that. We are wired to want to make a difference, to be part of success.
You might not be able to create a circle but I bet you can find a way to connect your team to success, whether it’s front line staff, mid level management or at the executive level.
Because although we often say, “it’s all about the journey” some days it has to be all about the finish line!
Connect with yours.
Eyoalha Baker’s message is “don’t underestimate the power of joy”, and she challenges us to embrace joy in our businesses.
I’m up for the challenge.
As marketers we can either market to others’ fears or to their joy. (Sadly both approaches can be successful.) Eyoalha’s jump for joy project in Vancouver’s east side was a way for her as a photographer to share her joyful photos in a place few would think that joy could exist. Her mural is visual storytelling at its best and included 200 pictures of people literally jumping for joy on the side of a three-story building in Vancouver’s east side. The effect on the community and Eyoalha herself was transformational. In this month’s edition of “Where Women Create Business”, Eyoalha says joy “is an emotion that inspires connection and open hearts. We have the ability to alter our own experiences when we view life through the powerful, uplifting energy of joy.” Who doesn’t want more of that?
We always have the choice to choose joy over fear, to inspire, to collaborate, to include. That in and of itself is worth marketing.