How Can Learning Storytelling Techniques Help You Connect with People and Communicate Well?
Walt was a business coach who found himself in a quandary. He knew storytelling was important, but when he asked clients to tell their story, they would look perplexed and get flustered.
They asked him questions like,
“Uh…where should I start?”
“Do you mean go back to when I was a kid?”
and one even asked, “How much time do you have?”
Walt knew what he was getting after, because he realized that your story is as much a part of your business development as it is of your personal development. But he didn’t know how to convey the power of storytelling until he asked The Story Lady to teach him at a live conference.
People who have been raised in the dominant culture tend to feel uncomfortable about storytelling. Perhaps this is because storytelling is so often considered to be “for kids” or for ghost stories.
Individuals from Indigenous cultures worldwide who have consciously kept their heritage alive have also kept the human glue of storytelling alive and…well…sticky.
Just as you don’t have to be a good whatever to do any skill, you don’t have to be a “good storyteller” to start telling stories.
That’s what you’ll discover next.
Why put time and effort into practicing storytelling techniques?
I’m going to answer your question with another question…
Have you ever had the experience of learning a skill from one of your parents or grandparents?
I can remember my grandmother teaching me how to make the traditional Italian biscotti and other delights.
Working with the cookie dough took practice. She made it look SO incredibly easy, and as a kid, I wasn’t nearly as good as she. Yet with practice, it became effortless for me.
She died many years ago, yet Nana is still alive in my heart. I treasure the many gifts she gave me and all the time she spent teaching me.
Now that you have received from me the story of passing along traditions, your mind is filling with examples where someone (a family member or even an elder or someone not related to you) took time to teach you a skill.
At first, you were just as awkward as I when practicing. Yet over time, with practice came ease.
The new learning became as much a part of you as your own breath.
Don’t expect to be a “natural” storyteller at first
When you try out new storytelling techniques in order to practice and improve your storytelling skills, you are in good company. You and the rest of humanity share the trait of developing a skill with time and practice.
There is a learning curve for any new skill, including tying your shoes, riding a bicycle, surfing or storytelling.
Never ever worry about the “learning curve” but simply practice. Even if you don’t FEEL like you’re a natural storyteller right now, storytelling is a skill like any other. That means you can improve by DOING.
Set yourself free to explore and experiment.
You might not know this, but when Walt Disney first thought of bringing Mickey Mouse and the Three Little Pigs onto the screen, he was met with resistance, to say the least. Check this out:
When Walt (Disney) tried to get MGM studios to distribute Mickey Mouse in 1927 he was told that the idea would never work– a giant mouse on the screen would terrify women.
The Three Little Pigs was rejected by distributors in 1933 because it only had four characters, it was felt at that time that cartoons should have as many figures on the screen as possible.
Storytelling is a multi-use tool of human connection.
Here is an example of how a busy mom of multiples named Kimberly O’Bannon tells stories about raising quadruplets in her blog posts. Notice how personal the story is and how connected you feel with the teller:
In an inspirational book I found, well –- inspiration!
The book suggested speaking a blessing over your children.
So, one morning instead of rushing around I started by giving each one a Blessing. It wasn’t planned; it just came from my heart.
How does a morning blessing create happy memories?
Well, by . . .
• Showing each one love. In The Blessing I ask for protection over them.
• Starting each day on a calm, positive note.
• Giving them a sense of being unique and important individuals not just because they’re multiples.
I call it “The Morning Blessing.”
(Child’s name) Good morning, Good morning, How are you today?
(Child’s name), May God Bless you and Keep you, throughout the day and keep you healthy and safe
(Child’s name) I love you, I love you, I love you.
(Child’s name), then I blow her kisses.
And you know what? It works!
Before The Blessing every morning each girl would fight getting ready for the day.
It was a constant struggle figuring out what to do just to get dressed!
Within a couple of weeks after starting The Morning Blessing they became a lot calmer in the morning.
When I would forget to do The Morning Blessing, some of my girls would say,
“Please, Mommy, give me my Blessing, give me my Blessing.”
That’s when I knew it was a really good idea!
So now none of them leave for the day without having Mommy give them their Blessing!
It doesn’t take very long, but it lasts a whole day in the child’s eyes.
Storytelling Techniques: 3 Elements of a Good Story
Every good story has these elements:
- Content – “what happened”
- Context – how it relates to the story receiver
- Emotion – the energy that creates heart-to-heart human connection
Here is a little more to enhance your understanding.
This one is straight-forward enough. The story content is simply the “nuts and bolts” of what happened first, next, and so on to the end. If this is all you have, the story is irrelevant and boring. You need more than “just the facts.”
I remember my mom’s husband talking animatedly about building a Subway sandwich. He definitely needs to work on his storytelling techniques! But that’s ok. storytelling is an art developed over time.
“And then she asked me, ‘do you want peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes and olives?’ and I …”
A story without context is one that has no relevance or interest to your story receiver.
One of my friends has this thing for the history of the mechanics behind television. After 3 minutes hearing about some internal component of the first TV (the tubes or whatever), my eyes have already glazed over and I am, for all purposes, not in the room anymore.
Sure, he’s passionate about it, but nobody else cares, and he’s missing an element that you’ll discover in a moment.
That said, sometimes a person has so much passion and joy for their topic that it is contagious. Hearing an impassioned storyteller share their excitement truly is infectious (in a good way).
I’m a blind person and not into cars except as a means to an end. I had an opportunity to go to the opening of an exhibit of 1957 convertible cars. My driver was absolutely thrilled. He went to see every car. I couldn’t have cared less about the cars but enjoyed the people.
The owner of all those shiny, impeccably maintained autos was like a kid at Christmas as he talked about obtaining some of the rarer cars in his collection. I found him compelling, because even though I have no interest in cars, his enthusiasm gave me a context to which I could relate.
He talked about the hunt for whatever rare breed of car it was (the quest) and the difficulties he encountered along the way (the road of trials) and then, at long last, the triumph of finally attaining the object of his desire. Yes!
He used a formula that to which every human being responds on a deep level. That pattern is called the “hero’s journey,” and I’ll teach more about that in another article
And now, this bring you to the third element that goes along with content and context…
Reading the story about feeling awkward, the morning blessing and making the cookies, you feel a connection. Even if you don’t eat cookies or have kids, you can relate. This is because the content is given a context that is meaningful to you, and primarily because of the emotion.
Here in this article you have a story of awkwardness, a story of keeping traditions alive and a story of bringing peace and joy into the home.
Notice the differences in the stories.
The first one did not have so much emotion and it will not be as memorable or touching to you. I did this on purpose to demonstrate a point. yes, there is some emotion in feeling frustrated.
But if I truly wanted to bring you into the place of feeling flummoxed over wanting an outcome and not knowing how to get it, I could have delved deeper into the experience.
Both the cookies and blessing inspirational stories, short though they were, touched your emotions in a more lasting and meaningful way.
And so by demonstration, you are already learning storytelling techniques even if you don’t know it yet.
Here is the lesson in brief that you have received by example.
1. Be willing to practice.
2. Be open.
3. Use the 3 elements of content, context, and emotion in your storytelling.
4. Connect with the one receiving the story.
Need Help with Storytelling Techniques?
You’ll get the full storytelling teaching from me as an audio download plus the DVD mailed to your door..You also receive the same action guide that live seminar participants used to follow along. Plus there are some other goodies.
Who would benefit from this package?
The Find the Message in Your Mess Package is helpful for you if you are…
- An entrepreneur
- A messenger on a mission
- An author
- A speaker
- A coach or mentor
- A grant writer or fundraiser
- A citizen of vision
You will find it at ProfitableStorytelling.com/message.
Listen to articles on your computer or download to iTunes using the Audio Content Reader for this site!
- The Peace Seed, Personal and Global Transformation through Storytelling
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- When Assassins and Allies Conspire: Visionary Tales, Vol. 1
- That Was Easy: The Busy Business Owner’s Guide for How to Write a Book Fast
- I’ll Push You Steer: The Definitive Guide to Stumbling through Life with Blinders On.
- Read ProfitableStorytelling.com on Kindle.
- and the 90 minute DVD Training Story Power
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