Storytelling: The Trick to Appearing Smarter and More Attractive

Spanish politicians are captivated by a colleagues storytelling abilities

Spanish politicians are captivated by a colleagues storytelling abilities | Miguel Riopa/AFP/Getty Images

The act of storytelling is very nuanced. It requires a strong sense of confidence and the ability to speak publicly without showing fear or intimidation. Storytelling itself is the art of captivation: the ability to grab and hold the attention of your audience to transmit a thought or idea within a larger narrative. Whether your audience is a packed auditorium or your parents at the dinner table, having a knack for telling a great story is an incredibly valuable skill.

In fact, storytelling may be a more valuable skill or ability than any of us ever realized. According to some new research, great storytellers gain distinct social advantages over others thanks to their gift — and the rewards can come in numerous forms.

Research published in the journal Personal Relationships has found that the two most common ways great storytellers benefit from their ability is that other people tend to find them more attractive, and associate them with higher status. That means you can come off as more attractive romantically, and be perceived as a bigger deal than you actually are — assuming you’re blessed with a silver tongue and a knack for spinning a narrative.

“Three studies examined gender differences in the effect of storytelling ability on perceptions of a person’s attractiveness as a short-term and long-term romantic partner. In Study 1, information about a potential partner’s storytelling ability was provided. Study 2 participants read a good or poor story supposedly written by a potential partner,” the study says.

“Study 3 suggested that the effect of storytelling ability on long-term attractiveness for male targets may be mediated by perceived status. Storytelling ability appears to increase perceived status and thus helps men attract long-term partners.”

The studies were conducted by John Donahue of the University of North Carolina, along with Melanie Green of the University at Buffalo, and included 388 undergraduate students who were asked to rate attractiveness. As mentioned, the results found that women tended to be more interested in men who had the storyteller’s mark.

Why we love storytellers

Toy Story

Toy Story | Disney/Pixar

While it’s clear the ability to tell a good story is good for one’s romantic life, it’s also an excellent skill to foster for one’s professional life. People who can manage to capture and hold our attention have many innate skills already baked in; they’re confident, sociable, and entertaining. If you think about it, it’s not easy to find anything that can hold your attention for a good period of time, let alone an individual person. That’s what makes storytellers a rare breed — and a hot commodity.

As we’ve covered before, these are skills that employers value very highly. In fact, social skills are among some of the most sought-after by employers, particularly in a day and age when automation is becoming more and more common. Having the ability to develop and continue a connection with others isn’t something that we can hand off to robots, and companies need people with the ability to do it.

Adding storytelling to your resume

Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Richard Branson has many stories | Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Instead of fretting about how you can accurately display that you’re a good storyteller on your resume, you can showcase your storytelling ability with your resume. A resume itself is a bit like a bullet-point presentation of your professional story, and the more creative you can get with it, the better. Imagine the HR or hiring manager’s boredom, having to sift through piles of identical, boring resumes.

If they come across one that holds their attention — one that accurately and convincingly tells a good story — that resume is probably going to get pushed up the chain. So, think of ways that you can use your resume or cover letter to tell your story, not just list it.

If you do want to list it, or add it into the mix somehow, think of times where your storytelling talents have helped your professional life in the past. Sure, you can put it under a “skills” subheading, but if you can actually list ways that your ability has helped you accomplish certain tasks in past jobs, include them.

Weaving a narrative and giving an oral performance isn’t an easy thing to do, but you can work at it. Start with conversations between friends and family, and work your way up from there. It could pay off in the long run.

Follow Sam on Facebook and Twitter @SliceOfGinger

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