Want to build trust, connection, influence and loyalty? Use THIS in stories. (Science!)

Woman and a Man dancing

“My stomach was in a tight knot as I walked up to the front door.”

If you want people to really care about your stories, and be inspired to take action, there’s one element you MUST include… and yet, I see people leave it out all of the time.

What is this magic bullet?


Consider the difference between these two stories:

Man and a woman dancing

I walked up to the front door.
For thirty seconds, nothing happened.
Then, the door opened, and Sally appeared. I took a deep breath. “Hello.”

Now, read this one:

My stomach was in a tight knot as I walked up to the front door.
For thirty seconds, nothing happened.
I started panicking.
Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, I thought. Maybe I should stay out of it.
Then, the door opened, and Sally appeared, smiling. Sick with nerves, I took a deep breath. “Hello.”

Which story do you care more about? Which one makes you want to keep reading? Which has the strongest effect on you?

I’m guessing it’s the second one. The difference between the two?

In the second, I told you how I FEEL.


Five Powerful, Science-Backed Reasons why you MUST include emotions

(1) We invest in your story

In the second version above, did you wonder WHY I was so nervous – and what might be about to happen?

Telling us how you feel builds tension in a story. Suddenly, there are high stakes, that might not otherwise exist. Researcher Paul Zak discovered that tension is an essential ingredient to keeping us interested in a story.

(2) We trust you more

Ever got nervous during a horror film? Or excited when our hero saves the day?

Zak also found out that, once our attention is held, we begin to experience what he calls he calls “transportation” – when you have the same emotions as a story’s main character.

When we feel this empathy, our brain releases the chemical oxytocin. Famously called the “love hormone”, oxytocin also builds compassion, generosity – and something essential for anyone wanting to influence their readers or listeners: trust.

(3) We become strongly connected to you

When you include emotions, we feel them in real time. Audience

In a study at Princeton University, neurologists discovered that, when people listen to stories, their brains respond as if they were inside the story themselves. When listening to the storyteller describe feelings, their insula – one of the emotional regions of the brain – was activated.

Even more powerful: when the story was told live, the speaker’s and listeners’ brains actually synchronise with each other!

(4) It influences our decisions

In the 90’s, Neuroscientist Anthony Damasio discovered that, while we think of ourselves as being driven by reason and logic, most of our decisions are based on our emotional states. Want to drive change? Use emotions when you tell!

(5) It helps us to understand and remember what you told us

Molecular Biologist John Medina found that, during an emotionally charged event,  our amygdala release dopamine. This chemical boosts our ability to process information, and aids our ability to hold onto memories.


So, if you want your readers and listeners to understand, remember and stay interested in your stories, to trust you, feel connected to you, and be more inclined to make decisions as a result of hearing what you have to say, make sure your personal stories include emotions!

As you go through the story, keep asking yourself:

How did I feel?


Thanks so much for reading! Which is your favourite of these sciency facts? Let me know in the comments below!

If you know anyone who’s writing or telling personal stories in their work (or play!), you can share this blog with them, using one of the round buttons below.

And if you’d like some more personalised help with telling your stories, I’d LOVE to. Have a look at yesyesmarsha.com/workwithme to find out more.

You rule!

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha

PS want to know my best-ever client secret – and get even more advice, tips, plus stories that I won’t put on the internet? Come and join the Yes Yes Family – it’s free! Just pop your details in below:

Photo credits: Ron S and Kaleb Nimz, both via Unsplash.com


  • Camari

    Reply Reply January 18, 2017

    Awesome article!! I feel more empowered to tell more stories in my blog and social media. Thank you for this!

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Thanks, Camari! Facebook in particular is definitely a storytelling medium – though I also love reading them on Instagram!

  • Elyse Sparkes

    Reply Reply March 7, 2017

    #5!!! This explains why I can hardly remember facts + details UNLESS I’ve had some sort of visceral connection/reaction/response to it. I’ve got to add these tips into my writing!

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