The Power of Storytelling

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In his fascinating Ted talk, David Phillips explains the science behind the feelings we evoke when we communicate with others.

He talks about how positive hormones and neurotransmitters can be released by a good story. These include dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins, which Phillips refers to as the “angel’s cocktail.”

When dopamine is released into our blood, it leads to greater focus, motivation, and improved memory. The effects of oxytocin make us more generous, trusting, and ready to bond. It makes us feel relaxed and more human as we bond to the storyteller. Finally, there are endorphins which we create by making people laugh. Endorphins make us feel more creative, relaxed, and focused.

There is, however, an opposite effect that Phillips calls the “devil’s cocktail.” This is when there are higher levels of cortisol and adrenaline produced in response to a scary or stressful situation. This cocktail makes people intolerant, irritable, uncreative and critical.

In our work lives, we can influence people better when we are working with positive emotion, so it’s useful to use storytelling to create the right response in people.

What are you doing to feed the angel’s cocktail, and to mitigate the devil’s?