|Credit: Geology Page. Check it out on Facebook.|
I recently listened to five great storytellers at a night of storytelling, hosted by my local city's public library.* It was a wonderful night of listening.
Those of us in the audience laughed, wiped away tears, pondered and wondered in awe as the stories were told. Each storyteller had a very different story to tell. Each storyteller fascinated us, coming from different walks of life: one was a newspaper reporter; one was an activist; another, an archivist; and yet another, a retired school teacher. Then there was also an attorney and school board member making up the fifth in the group.
The topics of the stories ranged from: an angelfish; a son named "Ethan;" a special woman, Patti, with her even more special doll-child, "Grace," and a zebra, "Iris;" a disabled sister; and a day rallying for the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday in Arizona.
After hearing their stories and as left I the meeting room, I reflected out loud to my companion: every person has a story to tell.
Yes. We all do. We each have a story to tell.
The reason most of us can't tell our stories is that we don't know how to get ourselves out of the way!
Our ego blocks us.
Seeking to tell the "perfect" story, yet wanting to cover up any flaws we believe our honesty would convey: we often can get tangled up in ourselves, and the story gets lost.
At the heart of any good story is honesty. At the heart of any good story, too, is a willingness to laugh at ourselves. At the heart of any good story is our ability to put aside our own vulnerabilities. At the heart of any good story is a deep caring for our audience to get what we're sharing. Those requirements come from the heart...and also the spirit.
By putting aside ego, we can reach out to communicate directly and heart to heart with our audience.
I learned early on in the field of communications that the reader, i.e. the audience, is the key concern we should have when communicating information. The reason a story doesn't get clearly written or received with the response we intended is that we sometimes forget that our story must also draw in our audience.
When we become cluttered in our own minds about all that we must say to be perceived as articulate and wise, we can lose sight of communicating the story in a real and touching way.
Obviously, adult storytelling is not like telling stories to children. The stories we tell to adults must touch listeners' inner core, and in order to do so, we must forget ourselves in the storytelling. We must get lost in the telling so we can draw our listeners in with us. To do so, we must:
1. Set the scene.
2. Have a theme.
There are several recommendations for telling the best stories. Here's an example of one pyramid.
3. Have a strong, core message.
4. Leave the audience with something to think about.
5. Leave the audience with a feeling that they could have been you.
6. Share from your heart.
7. Get downright personal.
|Heart listening is important in all communication|
|Listening with the heart is|
important in story telling to
receive important feedback
It's interesting that just before I was heading out to the storytelling session, I was chatting with a close friend. I was sharing a situation with her that she simply kept missing. We had to abruptly leave the conversation at one point, resuming after a 10-minute interval.
During that interval, I thought of why my friend was "not getting" what I was saying. As a trained spiritual director, I knew I had to practice "holy listening" and understand what I could do to communicate my message better to her
Instead of talking assuming that she would pick up missing points, I began again with: "I know that my activities may be confusing to you. Here are the details."
I went point by point and took care to communicate, rather than assume she knew certain things. By caring enough for my friend that I communicate each point I would normally take for granted, she got what I was saying. I knew she appreciated me taking the time with her, as she basically said, "Thank you for explaining that" in the end.
Isn't it interesting that when I stepped into the audience at the library, the storytellers did not make the assumptions I did?
They did not assume that we would know any of the circumstances, details or emotions they were experiencing and feeling.
Step by step they took us through their story.
Step by step they told their tales.
Step by step we became engrossed in their stories.
Step by step they spoke, and step by step we heard what they needed us to hear.
Step by step...that's the Art of Storytelling.
|Stained Glass Cabin in the Woods|
created by Neile Cooper, stained glass artist
|A night time view of the |
Stained Glass Cabin
by Neile Cooper.
Step by step... is how the heart embraces another.
Step by step...we can forget ourselves.
Many artists, architects, sculptors, singers, dancers and others who build and/or create things in their work are natural story tellers. Look at the brilliant work of Neile Cooper, photographed on both sides. Tell me she does not have a wonderful story to tell with this "Stained Glass Cabin In the Woods" that she had built to celebrate her artwork?! (See the full story here: "A Stained Glass Cabin Hidden In The Woods."
The work of Spanish Architect Ricardo Bofill also celebrates his storytelling. (Architect Transforms Old, Abandoned Cement Factory Into a Home.)
By getting lost to ourselves and going within our hearts...we can open up a whole new world to others, even as we open ourselves to the world.
Think about this. Start telling your story.