“100,000 years ago, we started developing our language,” David JP Phillips says from the Tedx stage.  “We started using storytelling to transfer knowledge from generation to generation.

“27,000 years ago, we started transferring knowledge from generation to generation through cave paintings. 

“3,500 years ago, we started transferring knowledge from generation to generation through text. 

“28 years ago, PowerPoint was born. 

“Which one do you think our brain is mostly adapted to?” David asks.

Short answer?

Our brains are hard-wired to pay attention to storytelling.  

As leaders, we are wise to develop our storytelling skills.  “Our ability to tell stories, to package our ideas with emotion, context, and relevancy, is the single most important skill in the coming decades,” Carmine Gallo writes in the The Storyteller’s Secret.

This week we’ve been exploring three of the neurochemicals that are released when we hear a well-told story: dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins.  D-O-E.  Or, doe for short.  What David calls “the Angel’s Cocktail.”

As storytellers, when we build suspense or create a cliffhanger, dopamine is released in our audience.

When we create empathy for the hero of our story by sharing their vulnerabilities, oxytocin is released.

And, when we make our audience laugh, endorphins are released.

David suggests we put this new-found knowledge to work by learning to be what he calls “Functional Storytellers.”

“Functional Storytelling means that you do these three things,” says David.  

1: “You have to understand that you don’t have to be a bearded old man in front of a fireplace with a dark voice in order to be a great storyteller.  In my experience when I train people, everybody is a good storyteller from birth. The only problem is that you don’t believe in it.

2:  “Write down your stories. You’ll notice that you have three to four times more stories in your life than you thought that you had.”

3:  Finally: “Index those stories.”  Categorize them by the neurochemical: Which of your stories creates suspense, i.e. create dopamine?  Which makes people feel empathy, i.e. oxytocin?  Which of your stories make people laugh, i.e. create endorphins? 

Then, David suggests, “The next time you go into a meeting, you pick the story you want to release the hormone you wish in the person that you’re talking to, to get the desired effects that you want.

“That’s a beautiful thing.”

More tomorrow.


Reflection:  Reflect on examples where I’ve experienced the effects of dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins.  What stories can I tell to put this brain science to work ?

Action:  Begin keeping a story journal as David suggests.  Categorize my stories according to the different neurochemicals.

What did you think of this post?

Write A Comment