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IWD 2024: The neuroscience behind storytelling
Fri, 8th Mar 2024

Empathy and listening are commonly seen as inherently female traits. However, empathy is still often viewed as a sign of weakness in the world of business. 

Enter ‘cognitive empathy’, also known as ‘theory of mind’. It’s different from emotional empathy (a common personality trait). Cognitive empathy is an invaluable asset when it comes to connecting with customers in Aotearoa’s jargon-heavy, feature-obsessed technology industry. It’s something that women excel at, and it's a reason we need more women in tech.

A note on the importance of deep listening.
Although studies about listening differences between the sexes are inconclusive, research does show that women are extremely effective at deep listening. This involves hearing more than the words of the person speaking. It requires reading a person’s body language and picking up on subtle cues to uncover what they are really saying.  

Because results don’t come from how much we talk but how good we are at listening deeply.

“At the end of the day, everyone wants to be heard,” says Victoria Cooke, Head of Strategy, Proposition.

Strategies based on deep listening make the perfect springboard for creating emotive, memorable brand stories that deliver business results. 

Storytelling. When creativity and cognitive empathy come together.

Cognitive empathy is defined as the ability to understand and infer the thoughts, beliefs, and emotions of others. It involves a deep understanding of how others perceive and interpret the world and the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes, comprehending their thoughts and feelings—even if you disagree. 

A 2022 study by Cambridge University, spanning 57 countries with 305,726 participants, found that women have higher levels of cognitive empathy across all ages and most countries. 

“Our results provide some of the first evidence that the well-known phenomenon – that females are on average more empathic than males – is present in a wide range of countries across the globe,” says David Greenberg.

Cognitive empathy is invaluable when it comes to connecting with clients and customers through storytelling. It lets you look at things from every possible angle to uncover unexpected insights and capture people’s attention in our crowded I.T. market. Cognitive empathy is a core requirement for creating bespoke brand stories and platforms that resonate with different markets. 
 
Proof that people make decisions based on emotions.  

Research shows that 95% of our decisions are made based on emotions. But emotions are also a shortcut to the subconscious, the mysterious part of the brain that processes 50,000 times more information per second than our conscious minds—like a supercomputer that never stops working.

Emotional content signals the subconscious to store it as a memory. So, there’s a real business reason to tell stories that make people feel something. There is also evidence that shows our technology industry would benefit from more women telling those stories.

Creating feelings makes for great results.  
 
Cognitive empathy isn’t soft—it’s an extremely effective tool for creativity and profitability. By making people feel something, we can all create more memorable work. 

"We cannot deliver results unless we fully understand our client's needs, which involves active listening and putting ourselves in their shoes – ultimately believing that their success is our success," says Shay Darvish, Agency Lead, Proposition.

It’s time to advocate for more women storytellers. Aotearoa’s entire technology industry could benefit.