You’re walking down a busy street and a homeless person approaches you.
Your emotions are conflicted. You’re in a hurry. You don’t need the delay. You know you’re about to be hustled.
So you pause and listen to “the pitch”.
If the homeless person just asks for money, you’ll probably say no and not even make eye contact.
But if he or she begins to tell you a story… about being hungry, about their kids, about their sick dog, about their mom who has cancer… you’ll more than likely find yourself reaching for some money.
Yes, you know the story is probably 100% fiction. Yes, you’ve heard it all before.
But you still reach for your money.
It turns out you can blame a single chemical. It’s called oxytocin.
Oxytocin’s release in the brain is triggered by stories.
And once in your brain, oxytocin stimulates feelings of empathy and trust.
Yes, stories change your brain chemistry. They change how you think, how you feel and even how you act.
That’s why the homeless person tells you a story. That’s why a conman will always tell you a story. That’s why kids tell their teachers stories when they’re late with their homework.
They may not be familiar with the science of oxytocin, but they know from experience that a good story breaks down resistance, builds trust and creates empathy.
If you don’t believe me, check out Paul Zak’s book, The Moral Molecule: How Trust Works. You’ll get over 250 pages on this one topic.
However, unless you want to read the book, you don’t really need to.
Because you already know about the power of stories and how they make you feel.
Think of a few of your favorite movies. Think about how they can make you laugh or cry. Or feel angry or inspired.
Or how James Bond or Jason Bourne can make any guy feel superhuman… just for a little while.
Or think about how you feel when watching a 2-minute video on Facebook. Maybe it’s funny. Maybe it’s sad. Maybe it’s just silly, but mildly entertaining.
But one way or another, a good story will always make you feel something.
Interestingly, video is a lot more powerful in this regard than text.
Watch a two-minute video about how a dog reacts when its owner returns after 6 months away from home, and you may well end up wiping tears from your eyes.
Read two minutes of text on the exactly same topic and your reaction won’t be anywhere near as powerful.
So… I think we all know how powerful stories are, and how they can influence how we feel and even how we act.
And that’s why stories can be such a good friend to online writers and copywriters.
We can drive ourselves and our readers to distraction with rational, detailed sales pitches. But if we don’t change how those readers are feeling, we probably won’t make the sale.
Hey… every copywriter knows people buy with our hearts and not with their heads.
And the best way to change how someone feels in their hearts is with a good story.
Think about that the next time you are writing some copy.
Remember that establishing trust is central to making a sale. If you want someone to buy, first they need to trust the company they’re about to buy from.
And remember that a good story stimulates the release of oxytocin in the brain.
And that oxytocin increases levels of empathy and trust.
It feels like cheating somehow. Like we have chemistry on our side as a secret weapon.
But that’s how it works.
Tell a good story. Let oxytocin do its work. Then, with trust established, make your pitch.
NOTE: If you want to know more about the power of telling stories, check out my course, Selling With Stories…
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