This past week, I was fortunate enough to be asked to deliver a workshop in Los Angeles on story telling. The audience was excited and engaged and it was a pleasure to be a part of. This energy tends to be consistent with pretty much all story telling audiences. As much as I would like to take all (half) the credit for my fabulous facilitation skills along with my co-facilitator, Chris Creter, I am going to give most of the credit to the topic itself. Story telling grabs hearts and minds and is an absolutely essential part of the human experience. And here’s why…
Chapter 1 – Why Do We Tell Stories?
If we start with the question “why do we tell stories”, we have begun our swim in the pool by diving directly into the deep end. There are many answers to this question: we tell stories to relate our experiences, we tell stories to keep us from repeating negative portions of our individual and collective histories, we tell stories to recognize and connect to our similarities. These answers are all correct and important. Essential as well, and maybe why we deeply need stories as a culture, is that stories test and strengthen our ethics. Why do we end many stories with “and the moral of the story is…”? Because we told that story initially to strengthen our resolve around that ethic. We know, for example, that being kind to strangers is an ethic we prize (and hopefully practice). As such, we can tell a story of the time we saw the elderly man attempting to cross the street without help from anyone around him. Watching this, we chose to get up and help him to ultimately get to the other side of the street safely. Voila. Ethic tested and strengthened.
Chapter 2 – The Time for Stories
If, over time, we find as a culture that being kind to strangers is no longer an adaptable and positive behavior, our stories will reflect that new ethic and any story that reflects our current values will have to be set in the past. If someone made a movie today about a society that condones slavery as an acceptable practice and set it in modern times, the outlash would be huge because we do not deem that ethic to be acceptable in modern times. However, if that same movie was set in the past, we would see it as acceptable because that ethic WAS deemed acceptable in our (shameful) past. We would see that movie as a warning of what we know we are capable as a species and a reminder to not let history repeat itself.
Chapter 2 – What is YOUR story?
This simple understanding of just one element of WHY we tell stories was enough to grab my audience’s attention. When we dove into universal story structure and how to apply it to their work, the lessons deepened and minds were expanded. Story telling is exciting, essential and profound. What would the title be to a story from your life that changed you profoundly?
Email Rob to learn more about how Rob can help your organization harness the power of story / narrative at your next meeting.