As we’ve recently discussed , it’s extremely difficult to change minds by presenting facts and figures alone.
As writer Daniel Pink has observed in his book, A Whole New Mind, when facts and data are easily available, that over abundance of information decreases in value. At the same time, emotional impact & context become more valuable.
To influence others we have to create emotional resonance. Language, facts and data by themselves won’t stir people. It’s the visual, visceral, and emotional neural networks that carry the real message.
And how better to arouse emotions than through the telling of stories?
Uri Hasson, a neuroscientist at Princeton, has dramatically demonstrated how storytelling potently conveys not just data and information, but feelings, beliefs, and ideas.
Using real-time fMRI brain scans, researchers observed how brain activity among multiple listeners aligned with the brain activity of the storyteller as he spun his tale. Most importantly, that alignment occurred not only in the brain’s language centers, but in areas responsible for emotions and sensation as well.
The science makes it clear that it’s not merely the sound or words that are aligning the brains of speaker and listener, but the meaning conveyed by the story.
This brain-to-brain alignment, or neural entrainment as it’s called, results in a deep sense of visceral understanding, a kind of embodied cognition between speaker and listener. We take in not only words and concepts, but we also feel the experience being described as if it were actually happening to us.
Through neural entrainment we convey and receive social information – beliefs emotions, and desires — that lie at the heart of successful communication. If you want people to believe what you believe, get them on your wavelength by telling stories.
Even months later when the listener conveys the story in their own words, they experience the same neural patterns as they did when they first heard it.
When you tell a story that’s vivid and evocative, the same pattern of neural activity that you experience during the telling emerges in the brains of your listeners.
But there’s an important condition. Neural alignment won’t take place unless there is a common ground of basic understanding. As Dr. Hasson points out, the American term cab won’t translate easily to an Englishman trying to hail a hackney carriage.
No matter how compelling your narration, if you’re trying to convince a health enthusiast to eat more junk food, they’re not going to receive your story the way it’s intended.
In sum, then, to make your sales presentations more powerful, consider these three points:
1) Don’t rely on facts and data alone to influence your sales prospects.
2) Create connection and understanding by embedding your key points in stories that evoke the power of neural alignment.
3) And remember: there needs to be sufficient common ground, shared values let’s say, between you and your prospects or listeners so they actually get the meaning you intend.
That’s the way to transmit your beliefs and enthusiasm straight from your brain to your listener’s.