A long time ago …
Once upon a time …
Boy, do I have a story for you …
Our world is full of stories, and there’s a good reason why. Stories help us make that vital connection between the ideas that frame our world and the emotions that motivate us to act. In fact, the idea-to-emotion connection is so tied to storytelling—and so important to the way we communicate—that our brains have a positive chemical response when we hear a good story.* It’s not just that we like stories; it’s that we are dependent on them to communicate. Which is why, if you’re in business communications or are earning a business communications degree, you should consider working on your storytelling ability. Here’s how stories can help in a business setting.
Stories Help Us Convey Important Information
Raw facts have their place, but they lack power without emotional context. If you are trying to convey the importance of new information to your team, your supervisors, or your clients, wrapping the facts in a story can help translate dry data into human terms.† Important information presented in a bulleted PowerPoint presentation might get your basic idea across, but people are much more likely to understand the stakes at hand and respond positively to what you have to say if you frame that information in a story with a beginning, middle, and end. A story can help your listeners understand who the information you are presenting will affect and how they will be affected. That’s a much more compelling way to present information than simply reciting the raw facts.
Stories Help Us Persuade
There’s a reason so much of advertising is designed to tell a story while it sells a product. Stories ignite the emotional centers of our brains, allowing us to form connections between ourselves and the person telling us the story. In advertising, this connection is used to increase the likelihood that we’ll be willing to spend money on a product, but those emotional connections can be beneficial to all varieties of persuasion.‡ Because we are emotional creatures, analytical data and other forms of intellectual arguments can only be so persuasive. If you really want to motivate someone to act, you have to connect with their heart. A good story can do just that.
Stories Help Us Envision the Future
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? To answer that question fully, you have to create a story. In fact, our entire concept of the future is tied to our ability to imagine ourselves as part of an ongoing narrative. That’s why, when planning for a company’s future, listing a few goals is not enough. You need to be able to link the company’s current situation with its future plans, laying a clear course that will get you from here to there. The same is true for your career goals. Without the framework of a story, how do you know what steps to take?
Stories Keep Us Motivated
When it comes to business communication, employees are more motivated by their organization’s transcendent purpose than they are by its transactional purpose.* This means that it’s more important for people to feel as if they are making a positive impact than it is for them to feel as if they are just making money. If you want to keep your employees motivated, you have to demonstrate how their work is improving lives. And the best way to do that is through storytelling. With a well-framed story, you can demonstrate how a consumer was struggling before finding your company. You can also tell the story of the company itself, giving it a personality and a mission outside of simply earning a profit. A company’s own story can be a powerful tool in recruiting and keeping top talent. The better you can tell a story, the more connected your employees will feel to the company’s transcendent purpose.
How Else Can You Improve Your Communication Skills?
One of the best ways to become a better business communicator is to enroll in an online communications degree program. With an online university, you can stay in your current job and take advantage of online education’s flexible format. Whether you’re looking to earn a bachelor’s degree in business communication, a BS in Communication, or an MS in Communication, an online degree program can help you acquire the skills you need to advance in your business career.
When you combine the power of storytelling with the skills you can learn in a business communications degree program, you can become a more effective communicator.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering online communications degree programs. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
*P. Zak, Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling, Harvard Business Review, on the Internet at https://hbr.org/2014/10/why-your-brain-loves-good-storytelling.
†R. Wilson, Jr., Forget the Facts—Tell a Story, Psychology Today, on the Internet at www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-main-ingredient/201203/forget-the-facts-tell-story.
‡H. Monarth, The Irresistible Power of Storytelling as a Strategic Business Tool, Harvard Business Review, on the Internet at https://hbr.org/2014/03/the-irresistible-power-of-storytelling-as-a-strategic-business-tool.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.