Once Upon a Time

08.08.2016 |

Episode #4 of the course Scientifically proven ways to increase your influence by Vanessa Van Edwards


Once upon a time, there was a struggling toy inventor.

Every day, he tried to make beautiful, fun, silly toys that made children laugh. But no one would buy his toys.

He made cute bears that no one wanted. He made adorable stuffed turtles that no one wanted. The toy inventor was on his last dollar—until one day he had an idea. He mortgaged his home and used his last bit of life savings for this one final toy.

This toy, he decided, would have a name and a story. The toy was called a Beanie Baby. Each Beanie Baby toy was given a name and a story. And kids finally wanted one. Not just one, every single one.

He made $700 million dollars in one year.

That is the power of stories.

Kids (and adults) loved the stories attached to each Beanie Baby. And those stories made sales skyrocket. Beanie Babies used the power of stories to increase their influence. And now you can too.


The Research

Our brains love stories!

1. When scientists put people in fMRI machines, their brains light up when they hear stories.
2. During a story, our language processing neural pathways activate, and the parts of our brain that we would have used if we had actually experienced the story light up too!
3. When someone tells us a story, our brain activity actually begins to match the narrator’s brain activity.

This means stories not only help engage your listener, but also help you get on the same wavelength as them—literally. You begin to think on the same brain wavelength.


The Solution

Create a story toolbox.

A story toolbox is a set of authentic, interesting, and stimulating stories you have at the ready.

I started using a story toolbox and was amazed at how many strangers would eavesdrop on my conversations at networking events and then sidle up and ask to join our campfire—oops, I mean conversation. Everyone wants to hear a good story. Our brains crave it.

The key with the story toolbox is to be able to naturally weave in stories you enjoy telling and then follow them up with a challenging question.


Your Challenge

I challenge you to create your story toolbox.

Your goal is to find three or four stories you can keep at the ready for social interactions. Eventually you will have 10 to 20 as you gather them from books, news sources, or funny events.

Insider Tip: I have a note on my phone where I write down juicy stories for my toolbox.

Go through the prompts below to help build your story toolbox:

• What’s the most interesting study, book, or article you’ve ever read?
Follow-Up Question:

• When did a person, situation, or moment turn out different than you expected?
Follow-Up Question:

• What was your most challenging moment, and how did you overcome it?
Follow-Up Question:

To Stories!

P.S. I’ve got even more for you on how to be socially successful!


Recommended book

“Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, Second Edition” by Joseph Grenny at al.


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