The people on the 6.35 to Waterloo are an odd bunch, but they work very hard. While I’m staring out the window at the clouds they spend lots of time on laptops. Half move numbers from one column to another for reasons I have no hope of understanding. Most of the others seem to work in marketing.
One man, who I first noticed a few months ago, has been writing a book about selling. I’ve been reading it over his shoulder. It’s the pseudo-scientific kind, with pat summaries of small psychological studies. Lots of talk of brain function and serotonin levels, that sort of thing. He’s been working on it for ages and I’ve become fascinated.
He’s in his forties, designer casual, trendy haircut, Chelsea boots, and expensive glasses – a successful marketing man with knowledge to pass on. His draft is on an Apple Macbook. Passages that he’s not sure about are in red and he revises them as we trundle through Wimbledon to Charing Cross.
Some days I’ve felt mildly jealous. He’s clearly more successful than me. He’s got more hair too. And I wish I was that close to finishing a book. But his chapter today touched a particular nerve. It was all about The Power of Stories.
Stories, he wrote, can really connect people. Something special happens to the mind when we share them. He quoted studies suggesting that brain chemistry is affected, and others showing that stories help people access emotions that are otherwise unavailable to them. This helps them to empathise with situations and people that they otherwise wouldn’t.
Then he went on to describe how this might be deployed to sell people things they otherwise wouldn’t want.
Part of me wanted to bash his head in with his Macbook. Another bit just felt sad.