My parents fully believe that if you want to succeed in anything in life, you have to read a lot.
My mother picked this habit from her mother, who instead of gifting us toys when we visited her over the holidays, would give us bags filled with books covering a wide-range of topics from general information quizzes to novels.
My parents also made it a norm for us to explore different bookshops in every country that we would visit, and constructed a large library for us in the house. That's where I spent most of my afternoons. Thus, over the years, it was only natural that I collected books and, specifically novels, more than anything else in the world. I do admit that reading books strengthened my love for the written word and made me want to be a writer, a novelist and a content creator, and I'm so glad to be that today and living my childhood dream.
Although I love reading novels, and know how reading them helped broaden my horizons, introduced me to different cultures, as well as fuelled my imagination, it seems that today not everyone agrees.
The other day, I watched a SnapChat video by a famous business coach and entrepreneur, who stated that reading novels is a waste of time, and one should focus on non-fiction instead. I was taken aback by what he said.
Thankfully, there’s evidence that proves how reading fiction is actually great for your business and can help you succeed.
An article published in the Harvard Business Review by Anne Kreamer highlights how in the past decade, academic research by Keith Oatley and Raymond Mar from York University revealed that reading fiction activates neuronal pathways in the brain that helps the reader's emotional intelligence, overall improving their social skills.
In another study by the same researchers, a group of people were exposed to different photos and asked to detect the emotions of the photographed subjects by looking at their eyes. Those who read fiction a lot were able to detect the right emotions faster than those who didn’t.
I loved going through the above research to see how it agreed with my perceptions of the matter. In fact, on a personal level, I’ve noticed how acquaintances and friends who were avid readers of fiction were better judges of character, and were also very emotionally intelligent. They were also more creative and always provided solutions that were out of the box, as opposed to some of my friends who didn’t enjoy reading at all.
So here are my three takeaways on how reading fiction helped me with my business, and how it can help you with yours:
Reading novels helps you with your creative expression
Reading novels not only helped me become a better writer, but also to write creatively. It helped me become the go-to person to draft an apology, anniversary and sometimes love letters. In fact, it helped me writer better emails, and business pitches. Because I was exposed to many writers from a young age, and their different forms of expression, that rubbed off on me and helped me to write well. It helped me write in a way that has an impact on the recipient because I was reading and exposed to material that left a positive impression on me, made me tuned in, and sometimes moved me so much.
Reading novels helps you think outside the box
Reading novels helps you think of alternative, creative solutions because it strengthens your imagination. When you read a novel, your mind tends to automatically play the scene in your head as you are reading it. You would imagine what the characters look like, their expressions, their houses and their days. With time your imagination will be so strong, and that will not only help you when you're coming up with bedtime stories for your kids, but also in the boardroom when you're stuck and can't come up with a solution.
Reading novels helps you become more empathetic
Reading about other people, their sufferings, and multiple stories, especially if you read novels written by authors from different countries, gives you a better understanding of different societies and cultures. It also helps you understand people of different backgrounds, making you more empathetic, and that's a winning skill to have - especially in our more intertwined world, we deal with people from all walks of life and the better a "people" person we are, the better it is for our business.
So next time you’re lying down on your couch indulging in a novel, and feel guilty that you should be working instead, just remember how reading fiction is helping your business.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer who manages her branding and marketing consultancy in Abu Dhabi