Ever been stuck with one person in a locker room, an elevator, or even at a dinner table and could not for the life of you find any common ground? Rather than feel cringe-y pain as you count the literal seconds pass, just tell a story. Research shows doing so will appeal to the other person’s emotions and open a gateway for easier communication.
According to neuroscientist Tali Sharot, founder of the Affective Brain Lab at University College London, the reason you click with someone so easily is because emotions are so easy to catch. And with research showing that stories are an impactful medium for emotional-connection creation—AKA “coupling”—where both the storyteller and listener’s brains are in sync, it might be time to queue up your A-material memories.
“If I feel happy and you feel sad, we are unlikely to interpret the same story in the same way,” Sharot wrote in her book, The Influential Mind. “But if I can first help you feel as happy as I do, you will be more likely to construe my message the way I do. The good news about this tactic is that emotion is extremely contagious.”
“If I feel happy and you feel sad, we are unlikely to interpret the same story in the same way. But if I can first help you feel as happy as I do, you will be more likely to construe my message the way I do.” —Tali Sharot, neuroscientist
This isn’t anything new, though: According to Inc, that rush of neurochemicals your brain receives upon hearing emotionally triggering stories has been shooting off for thousands of years. In fact, it’s how our ancestors survived.
“For example, if I detect fear, I am more likely to feel fear, too, and as a result scan my surroundings for danger,” Sharot wrote. “This may save me, because if you are afraid, there is a good chance that there’s something nearby I should be afraid of too.”
So the next time you want to go deep with someone, get emotional: By sharing a story—and getting the other person on your wavelength—it might not take long for your relationship to reach a totally new level. Which is especially meaningful, since making friends can be so tough.
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