The Power of Storytelling

How storytelling brings us together

“Stories are what our lives are made up of. Stories are how we remember people. Stories make us feel a little less alone in the world.” — Andrea Gibbs

 The beautiful, humid island of Seychelles, the setting of my father's favorite stories. 

The beautiful, humid island of Seychelles, the setting of my father's favorite stories. 

Stepping off the plane, I’m welcomed by a whoosh of thick, living heat. Beads of sweat accumulate on my face, my neck.  A short, friendly man greets me in rapid-fire Creole. I blink and realize it’s English.

My stomach churns as I follow the man — eyes flicking left and right and left again as I absorb the melee of the foreign airport. I’m excited too. My blood vibrates with an even mix of fear and adventure.

I’m here. Finally.

Except I never was there. That story isn’t mine — it’s my father’s.

But when he tells it — and he tells it often — I’m transported. I’m the one walking through the Seychelles airport: day one of what ultimately becomes an eight-month trip, teaching swimming lessons to the children of the island.

His experience becomes my own.

Storytelling is just that powerful.

The brief history of stories  

The world’s first story has been lost in the shroud of time. We’ll never know who scratched the first picture on the cave wall or why they were compelled to do so.

But we do know that stories have been as fundamental to defining the human race as our ability to use tools and walk on two legs. Stories make humans human.

As the centuries passed, technology continued to support and foster new ways to tell stories, new ways to connect us to one another. First, there were pictures, then language, the written word, the printing press, the advent of radio and movies, of television and the one piece of technology that allowed everyone’s story to be told: the internet.

In 2017, we have the power to get swept up in the magic of stories more than in any other millennia.

From the first cave paintings to the latest viral video on smartphones, storytelling is in our human DNA. Video from: BrandJuice 

The power of stories

Back in the caveman days stories focused on survival. What to hunt. Where to hunt. How to live in a complex, predatory landscape.

Stories teach.

But stories also connect. When you fall into the world of someone else’s story, your brain synchronizes with theirs. If the storyteller has brain activity in her insula (a region of the brain that registers emotion) you’ll have brain activity in your insula. If her frontal cortex lights up, so will yours.

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A team of scientists at Princeton, led by Uri Hasson, set out to study this phenomenon, seeking to scientifically answer the question: why does storytelling create empathy? They had a woman tell a story in both Russian and English, which were then played to English-speaking listeners. When the listeners heard the story in their own language they experienced that synchronicity.  

Her story seemed to unfold before them. All because their brains experienced the same pattern as hers.

That experience did not occur when listeners didn’t understand what she was saying.

The same concept of applies to fictional stories, a phenomena that narratologists call “transportation.”

Transportation is why you experience heart palpitations, sweaty palms and spikes of adrenaline when the on-screen hero leaps into the burning building to save the innocents, why you shout at the naive soon-to-be victim to not go in that basement.

As neuroeconomist Paul Zak explains, you know you’re watching, or reading, or hearing fiction, but your brain stimulates the emotions of the character nonetheless. You are essentially experiencing the same emotional journey as Wonder Woman or Sherlock Holmes or Khaleesi.

wonder woman is an example of a hero we can relate to

Transportation reveals why we are moved by stories. Why stories bring us to tears, inspire us to action and change our attitudes, our fundamental beliefs.

By telling a story, you’re planting ideas, memories, feelings into another human being.

And that’s some pretty powerful stuff.
 

Four gift ideas for someone whose Love Language is Words of Affirmation | Gifting based on the 5 Love Languages

In part one of our series, we’ll discuss the best gifts for someone whose love language is Words of Affirmation. We will write about the four other Love Languages in subsequent blog posts.

It turns out there’s more than one universal way to express love — there’s five.

Gary Chapman, the man behind the book and dare I say, movement, that is The Five Love Languages, theorizes that every single person speaks one of five love languages. Essentially, they feel love in one of these ways: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time and Physical Touch. Whichever way they feel love is also how they show love (and what they crave from their family members and friends).

Those of us who need to hear consistent verbal expressions of love speak the “Words of Affirmation” love language. (I say us because I crave the metaphorical “gold star” in order to know I am appreciated.) We generally show our affection by letting people know “I love you” or “you’re doing great” and we want those words to be reciprocated.

When it comes to gift giving — you need to speak the love language of the person on the receiving end, that is, if you want to give memorable, meaningful gifts. We have you covered with four amazing gifts you can give someone who speaks the Words of Affirmation love language (and look out for later blogs that will give you tips on the other four love languages):
 

1. A personalized mug: Go beyond “World’s Best Grandma” with a more meaningful and impactful message. Try “You light up the room,” “I admire your strength,” or “I appreciate all you do.” Your loved one can read how much they are appreciated every time they drink a cup of coffee (which, if they’re anything like me, is way too often). If you have enough time and creative talent, you can also make your own DIY mug.

 

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2. A handwritten letter: No actually, whip out your quill pen, put down your computer and write a letter (candlelight is optional). Say everything that’s too embarrassing to say aloud — write about why you are proud of them or about one of your most cherished memories together. Have all of their friends and family members write their own letters, collect them in a decorated shoe box and watch as tears of joy stream down their face.

 

unique gift notebook

3. A custom notebook: Add a touch of personalization by having your loved one’s name or initials engraved on the cover, then go deeper by writing a little note on the first page to remind them why you love them. Remember, the why is important. Those who crave words of affirmation need to be told “I love you” because

 

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4. A Feature: Not a writer? Maybe FeatureMe is your answer. We take all those sweet messages you want to say to the person you love and turn them into a one-of-a-kind custom story. We interview five people, asking questions that make people think beyond “I love you” and pull the most meaningful quotes and incorporate them into the story and the magazine-style design. Your loved one can read again and again why they really matter.

 

Want to finally become the master gifter you’ve always wanted to be? Sign up for our bi-monthly newsletter to receive: tips for giving the best gifts, discounts on our products and the most inspiring stories straight from our customers.  

Read part two.

Design is in the details: creative inspiration from Greece

Throughout my ten days in Greece I felt Muses fluttering behind me, exhaling inspiration which I'm still lucky to be inhaling now, back in the states. Watching the stories of the locals, of the other tourists, unfold in a language I couldn't understand tickled the writer in me. While I was computerless, I scribbled stories, notes, and bits of conversation in a notebook each evening — pages upon pages of writing that poured out of my soul. 

The main peninsula and its islands are chalk full of artistry; a typical tourist, I found every door, every gate, every printed sign a work of art. I'm not a painter, but I longed for my design outlet, InDesign, to experiment and "paint" with the passion I rediscovered while abroad. I hope these mundane snapshots of my trip can wake your array of Muses too for a creative, passionate work week. 

 Greece is largely monochromatic: a splash of blues and coppers against a largely white background makes its cities unique, photogenic and recognizably  Greek.  

Greece is largely monochromatic: a splash of blues and coppers against a largely white background makes its cities unique, photogenic and recognizably Greek. 

 There are surprising pops of color, largely various shades of blue, scattered throughout the island of Crete. A blue door. A blue scattering of flowers painted on a boat. A string of blue birds that lured us inside a local artist's studio. 

There are surprising pops of color, largely various shades of blue, scattered throughout the island of Crete. A blue door. A blue scattering of flowers painted on a boat. A string of blue birds that lured us inside a local artist's studio. 

 The age of the door and the steps leading to it add an element of elegance to this spectacular doorway that already captures the eye with its rich color, symmetry and swirling steel bars. 

The age of the door and the steps leading to it add an element of elegance to this spectacular doorway that already captures the eye with its rich color, symmetry and swirling steel bars. 

 There is something about seeing typography without the ability to understand its message. The symbols are no longer words — they're art. The fonts made me feel messages, emotions, whilst I stayed ignorant to exact meanings. The artistry in Greek lettering reinforced how important it is to  pay attention to fonts  in design.  

There is something about seeing typography without the ability to understand its message. The symbols are no longer words — they're art. The fonts made me feel messages, emotions, whilst I stayed ignorant to exact meanings. The artistry in Greek lettering reinforced how important it is to pay attention to fonts in design.  

 The small gate, adjacent to a beautiful church, conjured images of another world. I wanted to step through those doors and be swept away in a fantastical story full of magic and myths. 

The small gate, adjacent to a beautiful church, conjured images of another world. I wanted to step through those doors and be swept away in a fantastical story full of magic and myths.