Cognitive science research shows that reading fiction makes you a more well-rounded person and will improve your quality of life both personally and professionally.
If you’ve ever written anything for work before, you’ll want to know these five ways that reading fiction can help your business writing skills.
1. Improves Your Relationships and Makes You More Empathetic
When you read fiction, you’re putting others’ shoes on and experiencing their world views, even if those worlds are imagined. Neurological studies show that this sort of imagining helps activate the areas of the brain responsible for understanding others’ emotions better. This rewiring of the brain causes you to be more empathetic and allows you to better understand others’ wants, needs, and frustrations.
If you can anticipate the wants, needs, and frustrations of your boss, colleagues, or customers, you’ll be able to write emails, reports, and memos that speak to what is truly important to them. This can improve business relationships and your ability to write more compelling business documents, instead of dry, misguided documents that go unread because they miss their mark.
2. Helps You Regulate Stress
If you read only emails and business-related documents, you can burn out, especially if you feel the need to memorize or immediately respond to every single one. The good news is that research carried out at the University of Sussex showed that reading for six minutes can slow down your heart rate and relax your muscles. This research showed that reading reduced stress levels by 68 percent.
If you want to de-stress from the daily deluge of items coming through your inbox, read some fiction. At minimum, you should read fiction for a few minutes before you respond to a stressful email or before you begin an important report or presentation you’ve been anxious about writing.
3. Opens Your Mind and Sense of Creativity
When you read a plot twist or a description of an imagined place in a novel, you enter an unknown and unpredictable world. Unlike readers of nonfiction, readers of fiction expect and enjoy the unknown, where things don’t have to be as they seem and there are no clear-cut answers. This is a world where creativity thrives.
When you read fiction that forces you to see another’s perspective or way of life, you’ll start to think outside your own worldview more. And when you think outside your own worldview more, you’ll be able to explore new ideas and innovative ways to tackle old problems in your business writing, reports, and presentations.
4. Encourages You to Be More Inclusive and Resilient
As a byproduct of its ability to rewire your brain to be more empathetic and its ability to ease your stress, reading fiction increases your overall happiness and desire to be inclusive. Readers of fiction typically report higher levels of contentment and work satisfaction, as well as increased levels of happiness. They tend to get more sleep too!
Remaining resilient in business is a must. You regularly hear the word “no” or discover unforeseen circumstances that force you to improvise things at the last minute. When you are happier and more inclusive, you are more tolerant and resilient. And this will come across in your writing. Reading fiction will help you write documents that include clients’ and colleagues’ perspectives from different backgrounds and ways of life. Reading fiction will also help you be more cheerful and more likely to use positive language when you hear “no.”
5. Builds Your Vocabulary and Confidence
When you read more fiction, your vocabulary will grow in an interesting way. As you learn more words and start using them, you’ll feel smarter and more creative. This will help you feel more confident in your ability to write well and solve problems.
Good writers know when and how to use words to affect their readers’ emotions and move them toward a certain response. Whether you want to write an impactful memo with a message that’s remembered long after it’s read or create unique product descriptions that entice customers to buy, having a robust vocabulary allows you to be confidently creative with the words you decide to write.
On your next lunch break, opt for a piece of fiction instead of browsing through your inbox or that stiff report that was dropped on your desk. It might be a challenging habit to pick up, and you might even feel a little guilty or irresponsible at first. But in the long run it will improve your business writing skills, and your boss, colleagues, and customers will thank you for it.