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  • Writer's pictureRain Bennett

Ep. 84: The Psychology of Successful Storytelling with Neil Bearden

On this episode of The Storytelling Lab, Rain unites with his new pal, Neil Bearden. Neil and Rain instantly connected as they have similar upbringings and backgrounds. Together, they talk about their best storytelling strategies for motivating people to make change and the importance of not only accepting, but embracing your past.



There were a lot of things about me, where I came from, and my upbringing, that I used to run from.

I struggled with coming from a poor, rural area and growing up with an abusive alcoholic father.

In my mind, I knew I wanted to do great things, but I didn’t see anyone doing these great things that came from a country, chaotic background like me.

When I moved up to New York City, it was in big part to escape that aspect of my life.

But it don’t work like that.

In fact, as soon as I started embracing those things and telling my authentic stories, things in my life began to align for me.

Little did I know, there was another country man out there that had gone through a similar journey. Except instead of growing up fishing for flounder in the river, he grew up chasing snakes and shooting shotguns in the swamps of Louisiana.

Neil Bearden and I initially connected on LinkedIn and it was the story in that video above that made him reach out to message me.

Seeing that he was a storytelling professor at INSEAD (the “business school of the world”) in Singapore and owned a company that helped businesses tell their stories, I knew he’d be perfect for the show.

When I found out he actually used to live in Chapel Hill, NC, though, I was sold on a personal level, as well.

That feeling continued to grow as he shared his own experience of running and hiding from his past and how sharing his own authentic stories started to open the doors of opportunity and connection for him.

We stayed in that area of conversation for a while -- discussing the psychology behind why stories connect us as humans so effectively. We also talked about how humans can alter their psychology with storytelling.

With a PhD in Cognitive Psychology (from UNC - go Heels!), Neil understands that concept deeply.

Then, he did postdoctoral research at Duke in the field of neuroeconomics -- the study of decision making in the brain.

This kept getting better for me!

Neil’s particularly interested in how people assess uncertainty, the interplay of memory and judgment, and how beliefs and expectations influence perception.

Sound like the issues we struggled with regarding our pasts?

I could have talked to him for hours. And when he moves back to North Carolina in the next few months, I hope I get the chance to.

My main takeaway from this podcast with Neil Bearden was this:

Just because you let people see your past, doesn’t mean you have to be your past.

Use it to grow by sharing those stories.

If you want to know more about how stories affect the decisions you make, as well as those around you, this is the episode for you!


Some of the highlights of our conversation:

  • Growing up in rural Louisiana and making up stories

  • Going from surviving to thriving in school

  • Becoming liberated from redneck past and embracing it

  • How sharing stories bridges the gap of judgement

  • The importance of talking about the hard stuff vs. easy stuff

  • Studying psychology in graduate school

  • The study of human memory

  • The 4 Objectives: Attention, Understanding, Memorable, Repeatable

  • Using The Story Model for retention

  • Storytelling = Truth-telling

  • What makes a good teacher/coach

  • What NOT to do to get success

  • The importance of owning your whole self

As always, I hope you enjoy the episode!

Peace and Love,



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For more storytelling tips and tricks,

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