Stories over speeches

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By Raju Mandhyan

EVERYTHING that we are, everything that we believe in and most everything that we are drawn to is influenced by good stories. Stories that we heard on the laps of our grandparents, stories our parents shared, and stories of and by people we loved and looked up to.

The really smart businesses across the world know this to be true. Notice how global corporations, community leaders, and people promoting their own faiths use them. They use them lavishly and, sometimes, lethally.

What happens to us when we listen to a story instead of a bullet point-riddled business speech?

Take into account the Triune Brain theory of physician and neuroscientist Paul D. MacLean and simplify it a bit like I have done in my book, the HeART of the CLOSE. The human brain has taken eons to evolve into what it is today. The brain has evolved in three major stages. Let’s call them the old Reactive Brain which mostly runs many of our unconscious bodily functions and is also the seat of fright, flight or fight. It is always overcautious, easily gets addicted, and, of course, has very little ability in delaying gratification. Then comes the mid or the Romantic Brain, the seat of our emotions, hopes, ethics, and the like. Lastly we have the new Reasoning Brain which is the seat of analysis, rationality, and short-term memory.

When we hear a story, a story that sinks in and settles deeper than most speeches, at least five things happen:

One, the Reasoning Brain takes a back seat and lets the words, the pictures, pass easily through the objective and analytical police work that it usually does. It goes — people go — “it is nothing but a story and what harm can it do? It looks nicely packaged in roses, rainbows, and rhythm. It is just fun, light stuff, open the gates of head!”

Two, the Romantic Brain sits up and says, “Wow, are we talking people, places, pictures, poetry here? I have here within me so many experiences to share, feelings to feel and dreams to dream. I wanna dance, I like what I am hearing, seeing and sensing. This is good. Let’s party!” It then begins to conjure up its own stories and begins pump out dopamine, oxytocin, and feels engaged and happy.

Three, the deeper, Reactive Brain finds no cause to be afraid, to run away, or pull out its fangs to defend itself or the human that houses it. He thinks if those two juvenile idiots think it is okay to let these sensations come in then it must be okay. Anyway, they seem to having fun. So it puts its head down and returns to its daily grind and holds back the cortisol from running amuck.

Four, when these three brains are in alignment and in harmony, there is peace among the millions of neurons that live in our heads, hearts, and our guts. When these neurons are calm and quiet they take in all the new data eagerly and store them in our long-term memories. Thus any and all important interpretations and messages that stories bring in with them get stored in us as our belief systems and values.

Thus, stories really are roses, rainbows, and rhythms which gently package our personal and societal values. Try asking yourself why you believe in honesty and chances are your response will be, “because a long time ago when I went shopping with Dad…” You will recall a story.

Five, when you as a leader tell a story to a group of people, not only are they leaning deep into your story, their mirror neurons rise to the occasion and recall incidents and experiences and compare the beliefs and the values held within them with yours. It is synergy and inclusion in action. No, in fact it is dynamic interaction.

Ergo, whenever you have to make a speech, deliver a status report, hold a town hall meeting, build a team, or influence your world authentically for a longer time, then tell a story over a speech. We will all then be living a happily ever after life.


Raju Mandhyan author, coach and learning facilitator.