Everyone “sees” things differently when the brain creates its own stories

We know that everyone sees things differently, and no one views the world the same way. Many people have a vivid mind’s eye, others have none at all.

The other day, I came across this interesting article about the science of the brain. It outlined how some people can create mental pictures and others can’t and how it impacts how they receive and process information. The author describes how “Dr. Adam Zeman didn’t give much thought to the mind’s eye until he met someone who didn’t have one. In 2005, the British neurologist saw a patient who said that a minor surgical procedure had taken away his ability to conjure images.”

The article went on to say that “Over the 16 years since that first patient, Zeman and his colleagues have heard from more than 12,000 people who say they don’t have any such mental camera. The scientists estimate that tens of millions of people share the condition, which they’ve named aphantasia, and millions more experience extraordinarily strong mental imagery called hyperphantasia.*

As an applied storyteller, I thought this article served as an excellent thinking prompt for us when we engage in communications. So often, we assume that our listener understands what we are describing or endeavoring to communicate. We share a thought or an image and we assume that our listener is receiving it the way we envisioned it, in its fully intact form. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. We need to put ourselves in the listener’s shoes.

If you want to engage your listener in a positive experience, here’s a few points to keep in mind:

  1. Do more listening than speaking– View every conversation as a collaborative and unique performance, with its own unique rhythms. The most important thing you can do is listen and pay attention. Observe how your listener shares information. Do they use a lot of descriptive details or do they use short, fact-filled sentences? This information will determine the tenor, the pace, and the types of stories you can share.
  2. Prepare the listener – When we share a story in a professional setting, we are using it to show that we heard and appreciated what the other party has shared. Acknowledge how their example resonated with you before you transition to your story so they understand why you picked this moment in the conversation to share a story.
  3. Ask questions – You might have a fabulous story or analogy that you love to share, but it’s useless if the listener can’t relate to it. Asking a few simple questions like “have you ever done XYX?” are important. If the listener looks at you blankly, you may want to consider swapping out your story for a different one. If you do forge ahead with your original story, invest more time sharing more details to help your listener learn about your experience so they can better appreciate the lesson that you’re seeking to share. Remember, a great storyteller will always find a way to put the listener in the story.
  4. Use sensory details – Use sensory details (sound, taste, sight, touch, and smell) to bring your example to life. This will help your listener remember your story.
  5. Be patient – If your listener interrupts you with a story of his/her own, that’s a very good sign. Remember that it’s the act of story sharing that’s important.

To read more about the brain and the visual mind go to: https://www.deccanherald.com/science-and-environment/while-many-people-have-a-vivid-minds-eye-others-have-none-at-all-995054.html