…storytelling has become extraordinarily popular.
Karen Dietz and I discuss how storytelling has become extraordinarily popular. It is good that people realize story is how we think and communicate but a lot of people are confused about how to get started. People who promise to teach storytelling but have not been trained in oral storytelling miss key ingredients. In the same way that we can all write, but we aren’t all novelists: we are all storytellers, but that doesn’t mean we can tell a compelling story. It is important for practitioners to study storytelling in its natural state.
Expecting storytelling consultants to study with performance tellers is not about keeping the bloodlines pure, but about ensuring new applications of story retain the magic that keeps oral storytelling alive. Karen points out that one aspect of storytelling that gets lost is that “storytelling is deep play.” Karen says, “It’s really fun!…I lose control of the room…and that’s perfect.” Once people get permission to tell stories, that’s all they want to do.
Those untrained in oral storytelling produce laundry lists of components or a best structure for a “good story.”
Karen points out that those untrained in oral storytelling produce laundry lists of components or a best structure for a “good story.” Things that are nice to know but don’t make you a better storyteller. Leaders demand, “Tell me the structure of a good story?” She gives the what they want: “The structure of a story is: Problem/Resolution. That is it’s most simple form. Now …do you know how to tell a compelling story?” Of course they don’t. It doesn’t help. Having this information, is nice, but not helpful.
…stories are “living breathing beings that reside in us.”
Oral storyteller Ron Evans taught Karen stories are “living breathing beings that reside in us.” Moving an oral story to written form or other media means we lose the co-created aspect of the story. It “becomes concretized in a way that doesn’t allow flexibility” and “creates a relationship not with the teller but with the media” being used.
If someone thinks they can record a story “and be done with it,” they are missing the most effective use of story. Tell your story face to face whenever possible. If you need to create a video, invite members of your audience to listen when you create a video and be responsive to the future time, place and context of your listeners as they view the video in the future.
If someone thinks they can record a story “and be done with it,” they are missing the most effective use of story.
Karen encourages leaders to walk around, listen for stories and learn story evoking techniques before they spend time learning to tell stories. One of the things we both learned by studying oral storytelling is to ask ourselves “Have I earned the right to tell this story?” It keeps things ethical, but in terms of creating quality business stories this step is a constraint that ensures your story is authentic to the emotions of your audience. Adding “touches of authenticity” down the line don’t help an “unearned” story sound more authentic. The fastest and most convenient way to be authentic is to be authentic.
“brings pleasure and liveliness back to work”
Studying oral storytelling shows us how to stay a part of the equation in a way that develops our personal creative process, talents and habits that anchor our stories in authenticity.
Karen concludes by saying that she would like to see storytelling become a core leadership competency. If only because it “brings pleasure and liveliness back to work.”
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