For those of you that have been to our live events you know I love to tell stories! In the NLP Practitioner training course we emphasize the power of stories, and teach the art and science of telling a good one (also known as a metaphor). In our NLP Trainer’s Training course we teach how to tell multiple embedded metaphors. We share personal examples from the stage as well as other contexts (e.g. sales).


For example, we used to do a lot of business consulting. And we found that when we added metaphors to our closing pitch, we would on average double our closing ratio. That means that stories work!!


Well, at least that is what it means to me…  🙂 And, why do they work? Why are they so powerful? How did Milton Erickson get such amazing results with his metaphors?


This is where the research comes in!


First let me tell you a story:


About a year ago in Toronto, a participant asked me to tone back the storytelling and to “get to content!” I thought, “Wow! This person must have missed a major point!”


So what did I do? The only thing that made sense… I told the group a story!


I answered her question by telling a story of a powerful experience that changed my life. You see, when I was a lot younger (in my 20’s), I was beginning my journey of teaching adults and professionals. I taught them how to help themselves and others learn NLP, Huna, and how to release negative emotions and work on deeper psychological issues. In doing this I studied other presenters… and had an interesting experience of the world of teaching.


I would watch other presenters get up on stage… and it felt like they had become someone else. In some instances it was as if the person I knew disappeared and the “stage” version came out.


Now, I am not going to launch into Jung’s persona or anything like that. I am just looking at it from a very simplistic viewpoint. I saw what they were doing as an act. And when I saw that, I asked myself, “Do I want to act?”


“No” was my answer.


Learning to be Yourself


You see, when they would get off stage, they would attempt to refine their “act.” Now, this is not good or bad. However, growing up in Hawai`i I was taught that teaching is not meant to be a performance. The spiritual teachers that I studied with would be themselves in front of the group.


I would see this time and time again. “Teaching is not a performance. It is not a drama roll that you are filling. You are not an actor”, Uncle George told me when I was 21. “Be yourself”, he said, “That way, if they like it, great! And if they don’t, then great!”


At one point I turned to one of the presenters that worked for our company and asked him, “Why don’t you just be YOU up there?” And he replied, “The students are paying for knowledge and a show.”


Sorry, I disagree with that.


Letting it Flow


When you are yourself on stage, as with any area of life, the knowledge will arrive in an effortless way. I experienced this the first day I got up and taught at our Huna Workshop about 15 years ago. I said to my teacher David Shephard, “I am just going to be me. And that way, love it or hate it, I have no act to change.”


The rest, as they say, is history. I began to teach more and more.  I received lessons along the way that I am who I am. I learned that, like in life, students will see that it’s either great or not great. And either one is great! Because I can just be me.


So… When the student in Toronto said to me, “Enough with the storytelling,” and I told this story, the group gave me a standing ovation. Because I said, “This is who I am. And more important than NLP, or Huna, or anything, you need to be you. So take it or leave it!”


The group loved it!


Now, let’s delve into the research!!


A short time after that experience in Toronto, another student who was there sent me this article. Before you read it, let me explain.


During storytelling (or metaphors) the brain of the storyteller and listeners actually synchronize!


How does this happen?


The research that was published in the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), looked at the fMRI scan of a storyteller and of the listeners. They found that the same locations lit up. In fact, as the storyteller went on with the story, the listeners’ brains lit up a second or two before the storyteller’s. They were anticipating where the story was going!


What does this mean?


First, it means that storytelling is important in many contexts. When you tell a story, you are syncing your brain with the listener’s. When that occurs, you two (or more) are on the same page, so to speak. You have a similarity now in the mind, and you can only imagine how powerful that is. Story telling links you together at a deeper level.


That impacts so much more! Because when the story is done, and your brains are stilled synchronized, then the content is easier to learn. The listener has a more positive experience of the message being delivered.


No wonder Milton Erickson got amazing results with metaphors! No wonder the best keynote speakers and teachers tell stories. No wonder our sales doubled!!!


So the moral of this story is, tell one!! And know that it matters!