These days stories are told, listened to and shared every day by millions of people online. How these stories are delivered and how we translate the content, determines the effectiveness in influencing Behaviour Change in people.
When we are younger, much of our education and cultural understanding is based on storytelling. As we grow, our attitudes and opinions are influenced by the stories we hear daily. These can be in the form of news articles, or simply by stories we overhear from friends and colleagues.
Storytelling in Times of Change
Times of great change can promote fear and panic in some people (think the aftermath of Brexit). Storytelling challenges fixed ideas about the world, it is this ability to open people’s minds that leads to behavioral changes.
Research suggests that stories are most persuasive when the reader is able to take on a personal perspective to the story, forming a connection with their own experiences. In this way, stories can also help people overcome resistance to change through particularly memorable and resonant stores. There are a number of other reasons why storytelling is utilised as a mechanism of effective communication in times of change.
Simplicity: Storytelling helps make difficult concepts easier to understand. This is why parents choose stories to explain death or other life challenges to their young children. A story provides context and understanding to the issue, allowing people to relate to them.
Memorability: Information presented in the style of a story is easier to remember. Writers have long utilised storytelling to help children remember key lessons, including how to count numbers and the names of animals.
Engagement: People tend to listen very receptively to stories, especially if it is by a good storyteller. A story can therefore hold the attention of the listener, in ways that a simple recital of facts cannot.
Persuasion: Storytelling is a powerful means of eliciting an emotional response and making people feel connected to the story. For this reason, stories are also an incredibly influential means of persuading people to act in a certain way.
Storytelling has long been an incredibly effective method of discipline in young children and vulnerable teens. Storytelling creates neurological pathways in the brain, as the child creates images based on what he or she is hearing. With a pathway toward conflict resolution having been created as a result of a fairytale, it is more likely that the child will then be able to access this same pathway when it is necessary in their own lives. Other people’s stories can also help adults achieve self-realization; to see themselves in that situation, and to be empowered to change their own story and negative behaviours.
Storytelling provides a powerful method of evaluation following the completion of a project, by obtaining information on a project’s outcomes from participants’ experiences and viewpoints. Storytelling provides meaningful information on a project’s end result, that can highlight both the strengths and weaknesses of all participants, and illuminate the viewpoints of all members.
Many corporations grapple with the difficult task of changing a negative workplace culture. Stories are one of the most powerful emotional currencies we possess, and its this form of power that is necessary to change a deeply rooted and institutional workplace culture.
Many successful corporations use storytelling as a means to provide an effective message of recognition for a good employee. For example, a story of an employee who stayed late at work and was able to deliver a client brief in the required time as a result.
These positive stories of reinforcement provide an organic and non-intrusive means of producing sustainable cultural change in the workplace.
Storytelling has been a means to transmit knowledge since the early days of mankind. It is the primary means of teaching and enforcing societal behavioural norms, changing behaving and shifting corporate culture.
Bio: Laura Costello is a recent graduate of a Bachelor of Law/International Relations at Latrobe University. She is passionate about the law, the power of social media, and the ability to translate her knowledge of both common and complex topics to readers across a variety of mediums, in a way that is easy to understand.