The other day I came across an article in The Wall Street Journal headlined “Why Good Storytellers are Happier in Life and Love.” I’m always happy to see storytelling get some good press. Regular readers will have noticed it’s a favorite topic of mine. If you’ve ever gotten an email from me—you are on my mailing list, right? No? Well, go ahead and fix that right now. I’ll wait.
As I was saying, when you get my Occasional Flashes of Brilliance, you’ll see my signature identifies me as “executive speechwriter, storyteller, coach, Mets fan.” (That last one gets harder to write as the season wears on.)
So storytelling is important to me. According to the venerable Wall Street Journal, that’s not because telling stories remains one of the most effective ways to communicate. Nope. It’s because I’ve got lady-parts:
Women rated men who were good storytellers as more attractive and desirable as potential long-term partners. Psychologists believe this is because the man is showing that he knows how to connect, to share emotions and, possibly, to be vulnerable. He also is indicating that he is interesting and articulate and can gain resources and provide support.
“Storytelling is linked to the ability to be a good provider,” because a man is explaining what he can offer, says Melanie Green, an associate professor in the department of communication at the University at Buffalo and a researcher on the study. The men didn’t care whether the women were good storytellers, the research showed.
There’s good news and bad news here (you’ve probably guessed this by now, but I added the emphasis above). The good news for me is that most of the clients I write for are men. So I now have another way to convince them how important it is for them to tell stories: Women will want to, um, “date” you. The bad news for me is, well, those aforementioned lady-parts. Actually, I don’t believe that. I think men absolutely do want women to be good storytellers—certainly in a business context. Tell a rambling story and you’re likely to be talking to the tops of people’s heads while they consult their phones. Tell a concise, well-constructed story and you’ll see their faces instead.
I did find a couple of things I could agree with in the WSJ article:
Stories are profoundly intimate, says Kari Winter, a historian and literary critic at the University at Buffalo. “It is empowering to the teller because they get recognition from the listener. And it is empowering to the listener because it helps them understand the teller.”
Okay, that I can use with my clients. Stories create intimacy, even when you’re speaking to a large group. And they empower both teller and listener. (Note the old Wall Street Journal using the singular “they” in that quotation. Way to roll with the times, Murdochs.)
Stories can also change your mood:
Research shows that the way people construct their individual stories has a large impact on their physical and mental health. People who frame their personal narratives in a positive way have more life satisfaction.
So go tell a story today. And come back tomorrow; I’ll talk about how.