“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
~ Philip Pullman
Born in Warsaw, this pioneer rose from poverty and overcame personal tragedy and sexism to follow her passion to study science and mathematics. She developed the theory of radioactivity and techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes, plus discovered polonium and radium. The first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris and also to win a Nobel Prize, plus the first person to win two Nobel Prizes (for physics and chemistry), Marie Curie is not only one of the most inspirational women in science, but a remarkable woman in all that she achieved. Her story is one is one told the world over, spurring others on to greatness and tapping into the motivations behind modern aspirational mantras like Nastia Liukin’s ‘Dream, Believe, Achieve’.
Why do we love stories?
Humans are hardwired to respond to stories. Character-driven stories, like the one I’ve just told you about Marie Curie, are one of the triggers for our brains to release the feel-good chemical oxytocin. Essentially, good stories = good mood. We’ve loved hearing stories for thousands of years. In fact, many ancient cultures relied on oral storytelling to share wisdom, history and their culture.
I’m going to go one better than the story results in good mood equation, by telling you oral storytelling is even more powerful again. Think about how you respond when a friend tells you a story, you hear to a speaker share a tale at a conference or you watch a TED talk. You’re captivated. And there’s a scientific reason for this too: when one person tells a story to another, their brains show similar blood flow patterns or sync up.
Telling stories orally
Oral storyteller Kate Lawrence attested to the power of stories during the National Writers’ Conference in Melbourne at the weekend. Ex-lawyer Kate performs her stories, creating material from her own memories and imbuing them with meaning as she retells them. She explains that, “oral stories are told in moments because we live in moments”. Stories are part gift and part message because you give your audience peace, hope or resolution. “The responsibility of the teller is to make sure they leave the audience in that resolved place,” Kate says.
Consider how you can use this knowledge to share your own stories orally in business: take up that speaking opportunity, pitch yourself as an interviewee on a podcast or organise a workshop where you can share your expertise. Just remember to keep stories at the heart of what you say, because that is what makes your audience stop, listen and hang off your every word.