Tell Stories Designed to Excite the Brains of Your Listeners

Our brains are meaning-making organs. We look for patterns. We fill in gaps to try to create an understandable narrative. And our favorite place to do this is through stories.

With the holidays upon us, you may not be looking forward to hearing the same tired tales once again from Uncle Mike.

Have you ever considered that someone listening to you speak in a business setting may be having the same experience? Even if they haven’t heard the story a million times?

While our brains love stories, not all stories are created equal. What can we do to make ours stand out at work?

Here are three simple things you can do to make your next story more appealing.


Excuse me for nerding out a bit here. You already know I’m fascinated by useful neuroscience. Here are two things that will happen in your listeners’ brains as you tell better stories.

First, you’ll connect with their “mentalizing network.” These parts of the brain pay attention to the motivations of the people in your story, as well as their emotions and beliefs. We love fleshing out “characters” (including you, when you’re a part of the story). Give us some direction on these things.

Second: the most effective stories connect with their “default mode network.” These areas of the brain are involved in understanding meaning. When there’s a lot of activity here, this indicates your communication is more effective. That’s one of the main reasons why you need to have a goal for telling a story, which is the meaning you’re asking people to understand.

Do you remember being a child and asking an adult, “Will you tell me a story?” You — and everyone else — still crave one. Make sure yours are engaging. This helps you overcome the resistance we all have to new ideas and feeds our desire to be more connected.