With the increasing interest in the use of narrative communication as a strategy for influencing health behavior, there has been an effort to develop standardized protocols for creating engaging stories and to determine the successful components of an effective story. Continue Reading →
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This is simple truth so I’ll get right to it. People are moved by emotion. Emotion trumps reason. There is no better way to engage and emotionally connect other people to your mission than through the power of storytelling. This applies whether you are in Pentagon, boardroom, break room, waiting room or living room. Continue Reading →
The little boy loved to play army with his friends. There were the battles, the victories and the teamwork. As he grew older, he dreamed of doing something meaningful with and for other people. So he enlisted. But he never dreamed he would feel intense isolation after the battles ended and the teams disbanded. He would be alone with flashbacks of fear, guilt and horror.
In the military culture, it made sense to subdue vulnerable feelings – they didn’t exactly promote survival. So the soldier learned a new and necessary habit: emotional silence.
He did not know it, but his brain – like everyone else’s brain – recorded and retained information for the new habit in the basal ganglia. This is where neuropathways are formed for repeated behaviors.
So, later as a civilian, when he wanted to change this habit and he thought of sharing some of his experiences, he found it difficult and seemingly impossible. Relationships suffered. He suffered.
Blessed with a strong intuition, he accepted an opportunity to meet with some vets. As they everrr soooo sloooowly opened up about their feelings, his mirror neurons – like everyone else’s mirror neurons in the group – were activated. These brain cells are believed to mirror the behavior of others, so the quiet observer feels as though he is the actor.
He gradually saw and heard people who had similar and unique stories of horror, fear and guilt. Eventually, he felt that it was OK to share.
And guess what happened next?
In a safe and relaxing atmosphere, the childhood habit of teamwork and camaraderie overrode the adult habit of emotional silence. In other words, brain activity that is related to different habits – even opposite habits – can be remembered and rekindled by environments and situations when there’s a need for that specific habit. That’s what neuroscientist Ann Griel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology tells us, and her work with habit formation won her the prestigious Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science.
There’s more good news. The brain is flexible, or plastic, so people can deliberately reinforce helpful habits. And even in stressful times, those chosen habits will get triggered more easily and more often. For healthcare providers, educators and anyone else interested in behavior change, that’s the best news.
There’s one last point to remember: When you need to use narrative communication to tell a story to influence behavior change, decide on which emotions you want your audience to mirror. Is it compassion and love, or is it guilt and shame?
Narrative Communication to influence Behavior Change
Sharing Learning through Narrative Communication to Influence Behavior Change
Years ago, mealtimes in many homes meant story time – retellings of work experiences, report cards and bargains. When friends, uncles and aunts came to visit and mealtimes were longer, there was more storytelling, gossiping and laughing. (And yes, crying and arguing were part of those stories, too.) Continue Reading →
We face issues in isolation. Despite the fact that our healthcare system, mental health treatment models and behavioral health interventions are often face-to-face centered or group support-focused, most people face their issues alone. Problems are most challenging when people are in their own space, place and moment. That means without their spouse, friends or healthcare provider nearby. Continue Reading →
Life presents an endless opportunity for rational choice to confront the weakness of will. This endless challenge defines and shapes us for better or worse. The essence of human behavior change resides at this nexus.
To appreciate the basis for human behavior is it helpful, if not essential, to the observe the relationship that exists between the emotive and cognitive mind.
I’d like to tell you a story. A psychologist decided he needed to learn some more about how his patient was thinking, so he chose to do an assessment using the Rorschach Ink blot test. You know, those cards with ink blots on them that are just ink blots? As he presented the first card for the patient to examine, the psychologist asked him to describe what he saw. Without much delay, the patient said “it looks like a couple having sex.”
I’d like to tell you a story. A psychologist decided he needed to learn some more about how his patient was thinking,– so he chose to do an assessment using the Rorschach Ink blot test. You know, those cards with ink blots on them that are just ink blots? As he presented the first card for the patient to examine, the psychologist asked him to describe what he saw. Without much delay, the patient said “it looks like a couple having sex.”
I’d like to share a couple of things. One is an idea from the book The Spirituality of Imperfection. “In truth, there are no new stories. Stories become ‘new’ to us – when something – in our own experience – makes us ready to hear them.” Continue Reading →
Mike Bradley joined the Army to be a medic, but an improvised explosive devise and traumatic brain injury cut his career short. With health issues and without a degree, his employment options were limited. But through connections, resources and the Wounded Warrior Project, today he is a supervisor at a security consulting firm.