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People See Their Own Lives in Stories


“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."

-- Neil Gaiman (PAR G.K. Chesterton)

When you think of a story, what comes to mind? Is it a favorite childhood tale, a recent book you read, or a movie you watched? Maybe it's someone else's real-life experience that was shared with you or your experience that you share with another?

Whatever it is that comes to mind, how has that story impacted you? Did it make you think? Touch your emotions? Broaden your understanding of the world and its inhabitants? Open your eyes to something about yourself?

For those who know me even a little, you know that I love stories. Every movie I watch or book I read or story I hear opens a door to a new perspective, idea, or experience that I may have never had within the confines of my own life. Stories are powerful because the reveal truths about the world and ourselves that we may be otherwise closed to.

As such, storytelling is an essential part of effective communication. They help us process information in new ways, trigger our emotions, warn us of unseen follies, inspire us to greater heights, connect us with others, spur us to action, and grab our attention.

"Great storytellers become the best salespeople, the most memorable leaders, the most engaging speakers, the best mentors, and the teachers we will remember for a lifetime." So how can you embrace the Law of Storytelling and win the hearts of your audience?

1. Remember Your Humanity

Every story has a main character; this can be anyone or anything, but as a story-telling-communicator it is your job to help your audience identify with that character.

During an interview, poet and author Maya Angelou was asked how to create a compelling story and replied with the words of a Roman dramatist, "I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me." Then she went on to say, "If you know that, accept that, then you can tell a story. You can make people believe characters are just like they are. Human beings should understand how others humans feel no matter where they are, no matter what their language or culture is, no matter their age, and no matter the age in which they live. If you develop the art of seeing us as more alike than we are unlike, then all stories are understandable."

"Stories transport us into another world. They hold our attention. They become remarkable vehicles for the communication of truth and meaningful lessons that cannot be easily forgotten." -- Chuck Swindoll

2. Hone Your Craft

As you develop as a communicator and a storyteller, John Maxwell identifies nine characteristics effective storytellers exemplify:

  • Enthusiasm: They love what they do and it's obvious.

  • Animation: They embrace the Law of Visual Expression through facial expressions, movement, and gestures.

  • Audience Participation: They ask the audience to become a part of the story in some way (i.e., singing, clapping, repetition, mimicking gestures, etc.)

  • Responsiveness: They engage with the audience freely.

  • Memory: They speak from memory so they can maintain eye contact with their audience.

  • Laughter: They use well-placed humor to lower defenses.

  • Creativity: They use fresh perspectives even when communicating classic themes.

  • Immediacy: They tell most of their stories in the first person.

  • Heartwarming: They left the audience feeling good.

3. S.H.A.R.E.

"You can use stories for any purpose: to prove a point, illustrate an idea, teach a process, break the tension, or move your audience emotionally."

  • Show: What do you want your audience to see and hear?

  • Help: How will telling the story help your audience?

  • Amplify: What do you want your audience to imagine?

  • Relate: What do you want your audience to feel?

  • Enjoy: How can you make the story fun and unforgettable?

This week, answer these questions:

  • What is it about stories that resonate most with you?

  • Does your communication incorporate those elements?

  • How can you utilize storytelling the next time you have a message to share?

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