Ten Tips to Help Use Stories to Promote Transformation
To be a person is to have a story to tell. -Isak Dinesen
1. Change begins with perception.
Remember the telling experience is connected to the listening experience.
Someone once told me the reason he considered himself to be a good storyteller is not because he can tell 100 stories, but because he listens to 1000. If telling a story is like a finely woven quilt, one must realize telling comes from the same fabric as listening.
2. Your listeners are the reason for telling. Whether you are sharing a story about living in Tanzania, using stories to help bridge a communication problem, or performing a story that helps share your culture, stories always have an audience. We need to remember the importance of our listeners when we choose to tell.
3. Be yourself when sharing stories. A student once told me, “Every story you tell has a little bit of you in it.” Whether we share a folk or fairy tale, personal narrative, or a fable, we are in the telling. Understanding this will help us in telling stories.
4. Take risks when developing stories. Sometimes we share our stories in comfortable places. Sometimes, we need to share our stories with people and places that are unknown to us. If we tell stories, why not use them to share with others to realize every voice is valuable?
5. There is value in breathing. We need to relax before telling. We need to remember not to rush, but give the story a pulse so your listeners can enter the place of the story.
6. Listen. Story is about listening. We need to take the time to value each story we hear and listen attentively when we are not telling. This will often add to the richness of the stories you tell.
7. Sharing our stories reminds us of the diversity in our lives. Telling our stories is a useful tool for us to understand not only who we are, but the tellers around us.
8. Stories can promote peaceful recognition. A Croatian saying states, “You can never harm someone once you know their story.”
9. Envision stories as transformative. If you see stories as agents for change, your telling will begin to reflect this. Believe in the power and value of stories.
10. Tell often but listen more.
“Together we make a difference with story.”
Their story, yours and mine — it’s what we all carry with us on this trip we take, and we owe it to each other to respect our stories and learn from them. -William Carlos Williams
(Some of this was originally published in 2011)
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