Wednesday, June 06, 2012

How to tell a story

Many people ask for the chance to learn more about how I tell stories.  Mostly, they are thinking about the  folk and fairy tales from all over the world that I love and share with classes and, sometimes, in conversation.  Generally, they are not sure exactly what happens when I tell a story, but they know they like it and they believe it has some power.

Here are three ways to tell stories that have power.

1) Choose a story that has power for you. You might notice this power as emotion, as energy, or as a vivid quality to your imagining of what it looks like, sounds like and feels like as it unfolds.  It is less likely that you are aware of the "meaning" of the story - if the "meaning" you want can be summed up in a few words, use those instead of a story.

2) Tell stories to share, encourage or inspire. Don't tell a story to convey a moral - if you want to lecture someone, just give them a lecture. Stories work by allowing listeners to enter states in which they can find the ideas, solutions or choices they need to make - they don't work as thinly-disguised attempts to guide other people's choices.

3) Tell stories that respect your connection with listeners: don't spend hours preparing a story and then forget that the story is just a bridge to connect you to your listeners and your listeners to a state of mind that allows them to think or feel better. When the story is more important than the connection, the story loses all the power it might have had.

You might think that you don't know how to do these three things. The truth is that you are already doing them whenever you make a strong positive connection with someone by sharing events that involved a particular group of people and led to a particular result or state of mind.  You already know that some things you imagine seem more real than others. You already know the difference between hearing a story meant to manipulate you and a story meant to make you more resourceful. You already know the difference between someone who is using a story to sound powerful and someone who is telling a story that has power for you.  Your experience is full of examples.

So you already know that you are capable of telling powerful stories. Find someone you want to inspire, and practice.

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