The Agta are a hunter-gatherer people in the Philippines. Nomads who live in mountainous regions, they have legendary skills with bows and arrows. You'd think among a group with this sort of lifestyle, physical prowess and hunting Ability would be the most prized traits.
"In fact, the Agta seemed to value Storytelling above all else," reports a fascinating recent Atlantic article by Ed Yong. "It was highly valued, twice as much as being a good hunter," says anthropologist Andrea Migliano, who studies the Agta, in the piece.
Which is a fascinating bit of human trivia. But it also got be me thinking: Are modern office dwellers really so far away from the hunter-gatherer tribes Yong discusses in the article? If being able to spin a mesmerizing yarn made our ancient ancestors so much more attractive to their companions, might the same be true today?
A peek around the internet found plenty of evidence that storytelling skills remain a great way to boost your attractiveness.
Storytelling is sexy.
The first piece of evidence for this not entirely intuitive conclusion is a recent study that straight up suggests sexiness and storytelling go together, at least for men. The research out of the University of Buffalo and the University of North Carolina was published last year.
"Stories are not just mere conversation," claim the study authors. "Storytelling ability appears to increase (a man's) perceived status, and thus helps men attract long-term partners." Why is the ability to tell a tale so valuable? Evolution may explain the phenomenon, the authors suggest, as "good storytellers may be more likely to influence others, or to gain positions of authority in society."
But this one study isn't the only reason to believe the ability to tell a good story might be a great way to gain friends and win lovers. Other research has shown that the ability to think on your feet and respond quickly to moving social situations is one of the key characteristics of those judged to have exceptional charisma. Or, in other words, the ability to keep people entertained means you are also able to keep them mesmerized.
Biology also points to the fact that a well told yarn does powerful things to the human brain. When researchers take blood samples from people who are engrossed in a story, they find that, at the climax of a tale, listeners' oxytocin levels spike. Oxytocin drives empathy and bonding -- both with the characters in the tale, but perhaps with the storyteller too.
There is also, of course, the evidence of our eyes. Personal experience -- from your own dating history or to the endless mania for stories like Star Wars -- probably suggests just how highly humans across all eras value storytelling. Plus, as Pacific Standard (half) jokingly points out in its write-up of last year's storytelling research, "Garrison Keillor isn't the most handsome guy in the world, but he does have influence -- and he's been married three times."
You can learn to be a better storyteller.
All this suggests that being a great storyteller won't just advance your career, it might also fire up your social and romantic life. And here's the good news -- it's entirely possible to get better at this important skill. There are a ton of useful frameworks, rules of thumb, and even free online classes to help you hone your skills.
All you need is the will to improve, some basic life experience as raw material, and a little knowledge of the craft of storytelling. Hey, it's probably easier than maintaining six pack abs.