Dr. Green featured in Wall Street Journal Article: How To Be a Better Storyteller

Published April 17, 2019 This content is archived.

Dr. Melanie Green, associate professor for the department of communication, was recently quoted in a Wall Street Journal story titled “You’ve Told That Story 100 Times.  Please Stop.” This story, written by Elizabeth Bernstein, explains the concept of storytelling and how to be a better storyteller.

Bernstein describes storytelling as a bonding experience that builds closeness.  “When we share our personal narratives, we disclose something about our values, our history, our outlook on life,” she states.

However, storytelling does not always work.  Repeating the same stories, not paying attention to our audience, and not knowing how to edit ourselves all contribute to unsuccessful storytelling.

Dr. Green, and her 20 years of studying storytelling, help to explain why some stories can be unsuccessful.  “People can’t become engaged with a story that is incoherent,” says Dr. Green, “they’re too busy trying to figure out what is going on.”

In Dr. Green’s new research, which has not been published yet, she shows that people who tell stories, rather than give facts or opinions, are perceived by others to be warmer and more likeable.

In addition, previous research by Green has shown that men who are good storytellers are perceived as being more attractive by women.  Another result showed that these men are more desirable as long-term partners.  This perception likely occurs because storytelling suggests that a man is able to connect, share emotions, and to be vulnerable.

Dr. Green emphasizes that good storytellers use their voice to convey aspects such as emotion, passion and drama.  These cues prove to the audience that the storyteller truly cares about the story. She states that emotional stories have the most impact, the ones that make people laugh or feel moved, touched, angry or outraged.  “If it sparks an emotion in you, there’s a good chance it will spark an emotion in your audience,” Dr. Green claims.

The story concludes with seven tips from the experts on how to be a better storyteller:  (1) Have a point.  (2) Open hot. (3) Flesh out your characters.  (4) Build tension.  (5) Don’t exaggerate.  (6) Disclose something about yourself.  (7) If you’re telling a story you’ve told before, own up to it.