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Good Storytellers Are Happier in Life and in Love (wsj.com)
136 points by pepy on July 24, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 66 comments

You know its going to be pure garbage when the title is 'Doing X makes you happy!! '.

Fuck these studies that can never be reproduced even under the exact circumstances. These charlatans continue to be allocated funds instead of going to jail; despite being exposed as frauds countless times.

Just because reading stuff like this gives us good vibes doesn't mean we should continue wasting money on these "studies". Time to say enough is enough and put these "professors" behind bars for wasting public money.

This pointless scientific approach to human behavior and society has distracted us from any genuine discussion about our own internal and external conflicts . A Human being to these people is a machine which when given input X produces output Y.

Why do we continue to accept this?

I think the article answered that, oddly enough - the liars may not have done any actual science, but they told a great story. Apparently that's enough!

It may have made them happier in life and in love, but what about the rest of us? Does it make you happy to see funds wasted on "research" like this?

Ha, not really. I think they ought to be ridiculed in a court of their peers.

I think "jail the professors" is too extreme. There needs to be a more constructive solution.

I completely agree with your assessment of the problem.

(Careful, heard this "story" about dcposch, he might send you to jail too.)

On more factual note, it's a known issue that as you move from hard to soft sciences that positive results increase:


Fields studying topics like "happiness" tend to validate their hypothesis over 90% of the time; which means something fishy is going on.

Or they just chose to test something fairly obvious, like that people that are good at things are considered more attractive than people who aren't.

... or negative results are a lot less likely to be accepted for publication.

The better solution is to stop funding them, although I wouldn't know how to locate the source.

> Why do we continue to accept this?

If you really want to change things for the better, you should stop asking questions that have no reasonable answer. All you are doing is amplifying the dissonance of the article with your comments.

Happiness is a relative term. Everyone experience suffering, but it's how we deal with that suffering that defines our overall state of well being. If one holds onto something that causes suffering to long, it becomes inefficienct. If one lets go of suffering to early, it's an indication there is a lack of sacredness.

I don't think the problem is that it's unreproducible or fraud so much as it's mostly testing the obvious. People will probably find good storytellers more attractive than terrible ones in the same way that they will find people who dress better, sing better, cook better etc. more attractive than the opposite. Not sure testing it does much harm apart from maybe as you say wasting public money. But then lots of things do that.

At this point I think people are just trolling Hackernews for the traffic.

don't feed the trolls

Ya know, if you would just learn to be a better story teller...

What should I read to learn more about "our internal and external conflicts"? Genuinely interested

I've become a huge fan of Jiddu Krishnamurthi over the last year. A bunch of his talks on youtube.

I find it difficult to reconcile the rageface you display in your original comment on this thread with your being a Krishnamurthi fan.

How so? I am not an expert on his work by any means but I am curious about what makes you say that.

Well, for the obvious starter, because K was all about accepting things as they are with equanimity, and not getting tangled up in the stories we have in our heads about how things "should" or "shouldn't" be.

It's my understanding that equanimity and rageface are kinda, you know, mutually exclusive.

So you don't like charlatans with poorly supported explanations of human behavior... but you're a fan of Jiddu Krishnamurti?

you are the second person saying this, really curious what the negative sentiment is about . Why do you think he is a charlatan?

I chanced upon his talks via youtube recommendation.

Nassim Taleb, is this you? ;-)

So how does one become a good storyteller? Obviously it takes experience but is there a book that anyone can recommend to get an edge?

I'd recommend Impro by Keith Johnstone. He also has a sequel of sorts called Impro for Storytellers but having read both I'd say go with Impro.

It's actually a really interesting read in our modern age of status update storytelling. It deals directly with the art of "status play" as the key to being amusing. It's amazing how much of making people laugh and enjoy your company comes down to managing your display of status and being able to diminish it for other's pleasure.

I have the curse/gift of growing up in a Maritime family with deep Scottish and Irish roots. Talk about a group that values the art of diminished status.

Is there much more to "diminishing status" than self-deprecation?

The two have very little to do with eachother. It's mostly about mannerisms / body language, largely w.r.t. interactions.

WRT standing for?

With Regards To

Got it. I'm a hobbyist stand-up, so this will be helpful.

I've been interviewed/kept a personal video diary since the 3rd grade (over 15 years) and I can attest to the benefits mentioned in the article.

A friend and I started a company that helps make it easy to tell your own story and prompts to with questions to get started. It's called "Emberall" and is on the iOS App Store if you want to try it out.

This is at least a good read, and on-topic. Whether it gives you an edge, I can't say.


I would suggest joining a Toastmasters International club. There are TM clubs literally all over the planet and there are probably several in your area (LA, I am sure, has many).

Can I ask where on the personality spectrum you fall? I am quite introverted, but also in a leadership position where, due to being placed in positions of increasing responsibility, have to talk in front of people semi-regularly. I've given some thought to joining TM for practice controlling nerves before speaking, do you have personal experience with the group?

I am a complete introvert and was more fearful of public speaking than probably anyone you know. That's why I joined toastmasters which was supremely challenging at first, but through repeated desensitization (i.e., practice) you become less fearful. Public speaking is still not my favorite thing, but at least it is not limiting my personal and professional growth. I can now give talks at conferences without having a complete panic attack. There are other benefits too like practicing your extemporaneous speaking skills (table topics for you TMs out there) such that you sound cogent even when someone catches you off guard.

Thanks, sounds like it's just what I need!

The one I went to once, people were talking but I didn't feel they were genuine.

As they say at TMs, every club is different and you have to check out a few before finding one you like.

The problem people have with this whole 'storytelling' thing is actually finding stories. I wrote a book called Hooked On You that shows you where to get stories from, and how to attach your message to them. It's on Amazon, or free on Leanpub: https://leanpub.com/hookedonyou

Storytelling is learned as a child, think about it - every day child comes home and tells mummy all about their day. In this circumstance mummy can say 'very good, now play over there!' or they can ask questions about the story, e.g. ask for details to be explained or parts told again. It is this storytelling ability learned as a child rather than anything that can be done as an adult. You could learn and master everything this guy says about writing a good story:


But it is not about that, it is about simple stories.

A lot of people travel to very nice places on holiday, some people don't get to do that. But have you noticed people that you work with go somewhere fantastic and then have nothing to say about it? Bad storytelling!!!

Meanwhile, a good storyteller will be able to walk into town, or maybe just take their dog for a walk and be able to come back with a story. The story could be anecdotal, something seen along the way, or it could be about some other dog and owner met. Bungie jumping in Borneo might not be something that really helps conversation, people don't relate to it, no matter how outer-worldly it is. However, meeting a sweet dog and lovely owner, a story can come out of that, one that can be related to.

Going back to childhood, there are other opportunities - the formal dinner setting where adults are willing to listen to a child's story. For a child to hold their own and maybe get laughs, that all has to be learned. If the child has a reputation for disruption then the invite to the top table will not be a thing and the opportunity to tell stories in a way that works with an audience is not there.

If a child is brought up without love then there is no chance for that child to learn how to tell stories in a social setting, i.e. relevant (beginning, middle, end), with audience engaged, true rather than fanciful, with consideration for others that are different and so on. The ability to tell stories that people want to hear should be an innate thing, developed with language. But some kids are not loved and therefore do not have that social engagement where stories are shared. These kids grow up in their own world so they do have stories but they only make sense in their world, not some broader happy society context. Hence not good story tellers. The motivation and the innate ability is not there.

Therefore I suspect that there are reasons why being a good storyteller is a signifier. Would you want someone that does not do stories to be parenting your child? No. For men this is not thought of as such a big deal, but why is this? Men do not have maternal instincts and it is the 'mother's tongue' that gets learned for a good reason. Women know they can get a more loving partner by rating the story telling ability of men, men don't always care about that.

It is possible to help someone that is not a good storyteller become better at it. This involves treating them a little bit like how you might have a conversation with an 8 year old child, asking lots of basic questions to get them comfortable sharing the story. I have yet to meet a human being that does not like talking, even if shy. Just through listening and questions one can get someone able to do things like stick to the plot and not go rambling off. Then through normal friendship you can get them to want to share stories. So far everything is all about them... But, listen, ask the right questions. Then, as time goes by you can start to get to talk about other stories, e.g. one's own or the world at large, or involving a shared interest. This sort of therapy is not available on the NHS, however, people do make friends at work and those that don't have the childhood wiring for good storytelling can be brought into the fold, gossip coaxed out of them on tea breaks.

Clearly the internet has created new opportunities for storytelling. If you are not from that broken home/foster home background where things like storytelling just do not get learned, then what to do? Write!!! If you get good feedback on your writing then you will be encouraged to further develop your storytelling ability. Although there are big books that can tell you how to do it better, practice is the true teacher.

With respect to the article, I see storytelling as something very much tied into child development and I don't see how that aspect can't be gone into properly.

> I have yet to meet a human being that does not like talking

In all seriousness, that just means that you haven't met me.

Tend to agree here. In my family nobody ever listened so even now I feel rushed when I tell a story. The good storytellers I know assume that people are listening and take their time.

>>But have you noticed people that you work with go somewhere fantastic and then have nothing to say about it? Bad storytelling!!!

I'm not a bad storyteller. I just like to think about the future and discuss ideas with people, rather than think about the past and discuss events.

Cool story

Wow, what an insightful post! What are some of these "big books" you alluded to?

Things like McKee`s Story, teaches people how to write for soaps and the like where there is a team of writers and some complex process.

I believe that those books are only any good if you are good, i.e. able to write confidently and break the rules :-)

I don`t believe in going over technical on these things, normally I want to actually tell a story rather than have people tuning in to commercials and a whole series.

But it is necessary to be able to at least know of story structures useful to take your audience on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. Doing that through practice rather than because some book recommends it is the way though, practice!!!

Book? I got nuthin'.

Podcast however, there's "Writing Excuses". I've been listening for years. Totally amazing depth and breadth, hundreds of episodes covering all aspects of storytelling and authorship.

Why do marriages have to be saved, and why are marriage counselors presented as respectable good guys instead of odious charlatans that prey on the weak and miserable???

Because marriage, like anything worth its while, is not just instant gratification, and it often takes effort to make good again.

Or, to answer in another way, because people in falling marriages feel like it's something worth saving, that they try to find help with achieving that. Who are you to tell them otherwise, and generalize that to all marriage counselors and people wanting to save their marriage?

Because marriage isn't always easy, and some couples are actually helped by the counselor, even if it's only because the couple are forced to sit down and talk to each other in normal voices.

I fully agree that storytelling is an important skill, but boy howdy is that experiment ridiculous. Every time I read about one of these ridiculous studies I wish someone would start an organization for reproducing and debunking bad studies.

The Open Science Framework has Reproducibility Projects for a number of different fields. Like this one for Psychology: https://osf.io/ezcuj/wiki/home/ and are generally trying to make science more open and reproducible.

"Psychologists believe this is because the man is showing that he knows how to connect, to share emotions and, possibly, to be vulnerable. He also is indicating that he is interesting and articulate and can gain resources and provide support."

Why this disconnect? Isn't storytelling the act of connecting, sharing emotions, and being vulnerable? The article makes it sound like storytelling is peacocking. Doing one thing to display a related ability. Like flexing to show strength. But this is the real act. Of course people who are better at interpersonal communication are happier because of it.

To me it sounds more like the man is indicating he needs other people to provide support (and motivates them by the story telling techniques he developed). Most introvert men would probably be able to provide for things themselves.

"The men didn’t care whether the women were good storytellers, the research showed."

Men generally have lower standards.

A while ago, I ran two Tinder bots connected to CleverBot; one with a female account and the other with a male account (Both with attractive pictures). Female matches did not tolerate the male bot talking gibberish, while male matches went out of their way to try and make sense of what the female bot was saying.

Hilarious as it was, I had to cut it because it was immoral.

How did you account for a woman having many more times the matches of a man? Wouldn't this influence whether they would be willing to "spend" time on the match?

I thought about that and the only thing I could do to address it was by making the male account really attractive. Couldn't think of a better solution.

You should write a blog post about that.

> Hilarious as it was, I had to cut it because it was immoral.

But you were really doing science!

Take inspiration from Dr Herbert West.


I've automated dating chats too and able to confirm that guys are less picky, though they're also more likely to move on too. Girls are more picky, but if the bot tricks them into believing they're real, they'll stick around longer.

"women need reason to have sex, men need a place"

Jeez, guys, this is Billy Crystal:)

Storytellers are more able to contextualise their misery within an aspirational framework.

Whenever you're not sure whether something is a cause or an effect, look up Taleb on "Narrative Fallacy."

I know a guy who's an excellent story teller.

He's also a pathological liar who never intends to keep any of his promises.

Matthew Dicks is a great story teller with some good tips: http://www.matthewdicks.com/new-page-5/


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