….stories sell

If you are a job seeker, it’s very important to weave many stories about what you’ve done as examples of your success. People love stories. People remember stories. People remember you when you tell them stories about your past. Stories bypass conscious resistance and preconceived notions. Stories, analogies, metaphors about you that pertain to the hiring authority’s needs are absolutely the best way to be remembered. Of course, they need to be short, no more than 45 seconds, to the point and above all pertinent to the opportunity for which you are interviewing. Stories are more than entertainment.

Philosophers tell us that they teach us the art of being human. From psychologists we learned that stories are successful because they remove the prejudice of the listener towards the story teller and encourage the listener to identify with the person in the story. People remember stories because they identify with the people in the stories. By doing that, the listener becomes more engaged with the storyteller and asks themselves questions like, what would I have done in that situation? We are so caught up in the drama of the story, we have little emotional energy to disagree. That’s why Jesus Christ taught in parables. Buddha, Aesop, and other great teachers all taught with stories and one of the most important revelations about stories comes recently from the Princeton neurologist Yuri Hassan. He recently discovered that the listener of a story develops the exact same brain waves and brain patterns that the story teller has.

The story teller literally makes the listener’s brain pattern match their own. So if you want people to see the world the way you do, tell them a compelling story and get their brain patterns to match yours. Story telling breeds a connection between tellers and listeners, a shared flourish of joy at the climax or mutual gloom at the relation of something tragic. Does this interpersonal link also take a visual measurable form? Well, a team recorded videos of eight students as they recounted emotional experiences from falling in love to the death of a friend as they spoke and eye tracking device measured the dilation of their pupils, which research indicates expand and contract with the ups and downs of mental engagement. Later more than a hundred other students watched the videos as they too were monitored with an eye tracker. During parts of this story rated as especially engaging the researchers found the dilation of the listeners’ pupils more closely matched dilation of the speaker’s pupils.

Synchrony was greatest between participants who rated high on a measure of empathy and speakers high on expressiveness results that held even when the listeners did not view the speaker. The findings are indicative of mental coupling or shared attention to what the speaker is saying, according to Dartmouth College neuroscientists, Thilia Wheatley, a coauthor of the study. Without people listening, speaking is just disturbing air molecules. Communication requires coupled minds. Story telling experts tell us that there are six types of stories. “Who am I?” stories, “Why am I here?” stories, “Vision” stories, “Teaching” stories, “Values” stories, and “I know what you’re thinking” stories. It’s not hard to come up with these types of stories in the interviewing process. They can be very powerful. We had a candidate a number of years ago who had been born and raised on a chicken farm in East Texas. During the interviewing process, he would talk about what it was like growing up on a chicken farm, how hard they had to work, the long hours, the difficulty.

It was a great story. That candidate was chosen over nine other very well qualified candidates. The hiring authority told us that what made the difference was the candidate’s stories about growing up on a chicken farm. “Why am I here?” stories could be about why you had to leave your present job or why you left your past ones. “Vision” stories could be about the company you’re interviewing with and how it might look when they hire you. “Teaching” and “Value” stories can be about the mistakes you’ve made in your career and what you learned from those mistakes. “I know what you’re thinking” stories can explain why you’ve had too many jobs or have been out of work for a very long period of time before the hiring authority brings it up as a concern. Your stories will make all the difference in the world. People who tell stories are remembered.

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