We’ve all grown up with stories – listening to them from our early years where we first heard about the three bears, learning to read stories ourselves and then telling stories to our friends. We built up from the basic to more advanced stories as we progressed through schooling and jobs.
Often the training & development experiences I remember best are where a story was involved or where we created a story ourselves as we went through the experience. I don’t always remember the facts – and in reality, I can probably find the facts by a quick google or asking Siri.
A good storyteller can make you feel like you were there, experiencing what the person experienced, being taken along that journey and learning along the way.
Story telling is one of the oldest forms of communication, yet often neglected in organisations as a really practical way to bring culture, leadership and organisational history to life.
Almost every culture is based on stories, particularly our Indigenous Culture, where they bring history forward in engaging ways to help people remember and recall things they care about.
We all have experiences and backgrounds that form part of our story, but do we regularly tell them? Do we think about why do we need to tell them? Have we lost the art of storytelling?
We tell stories to:
- Explain what happened – to record history. The what and why and the characters involved, bringing it to life so we don’t forget
- To teach – to learn and understand success and failure, to give a message
- To share our values – our morals and the way we think or live (think Aesops Fables)
- To entertain others – fun, engaging stories to make people laugh
- To share and feel emotion – so people can empathise and really feel why it matters – engaging hearts as well as minds.
The Art of it
There are many ways to tell a story – almost all use three critical ingredients – perspective (a view or way of looking at it), plot (it needs to go somewhere) and characters (you need to care).
When you tell a story, it is not the time to be the hero – your story is more often about something you learned, experienced or realised for sharing with others.
It can make you, the story-teller, feel vulnerable – you are sharing something very personal so that’s not surprising. Equally it is important you are authentic and honest when telling it and your audience will see you as such.
Tell me the truth and I believe.
One of the most important aspects of story-telling is to establish connection and trigger empathy.
The brain is wired so that when we experience empathy it releases oxytocin – that leads to us feeling connected and trusting of the person telling the story. And if it is an emotionally charged story the brain also releases dopamine – something that helps us process information and retain it.
It makes sense then, when someone tells a really powerful story, that we feel we are in the story too and we remember it.
When you are preparing to tell a story, check it against the four points:
- Empathy – Do I care?
- Relatable – Can I imagine being in the story?
- Repeatable – Would I tell the story again?
- Time – Am I still listening?
If you can get these right, they all add up to a story that people want to listen to, connect with and remember.
Have a go, use a real story about real people and real examples and see the connection you can create.
Tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.