Nobody wants to see listeners’ eyes glaze over in boredom as we tell our favorite story—whether during a presentation or at a party. Ideally we want rapt attention. To that end, advice from Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert (http://n.pr/2uGZ8b0) might be useful.
According to Gilbert, you might well induce blank stares when you dwell on topics that are unfamiliar—such as your exotic vacation or a movie no one’s seen. He and colleagues Gus Cooney and Timothy Wilson found “speakers tend to think listeners will most enjoy hearing novel stories…and that makes perfectly good sense. We think of communication as an attempt to tell people things they don't already know.”
But what Gilbert and company’s experiments showed was that listeners much preferred to hear about experiences they’d already had. They exposed people to stories about novel and familiar experiences, finding that stories about familiar experiences were enjoyed much more. Bottom line: Link with familiar ground to keep people engaged (Tweet it!). As Aristotle said: “The fool persuades me with his reasons, the wise man with my own.”
What’s an anecdote you love to tell that people react to best? Do you consider the topic familiar? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
If you would like to read more about creating a habit around masterful communication, check out our book: Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion.