Were you fortunate enough to have a grandmother who could spin a spellbinding tale? Do you remember a college professor who, instead of lecturing, would tell stories that sparked your imagination and made complicated ideas come to life? Have you been lucky enough to be at a business meeting where the presenter did not simply flash through her power point slides, but actually engaged you in a compassionate story that changed the way you did business?
Good speakers from Abraham Lincoln to Maya Angelou have always known that a good story, well told, stirs passion. Stories have the power to change hearts and minds.
Storytelling is the most ancient art form and yet it is still a vital part of our everyday lives. Whenever you come home from a rough or wonderful day and whine or brag, you are telling stories.
There is a growing body of research that extols the idea that the human mind is pre-programmed for the personal narrative. The way we know our deeper self and our divine place in the world is through the stories we hear and the stories we tell.
Yet the digital world, with the growing emphasis on mass marketed entertainment, has diminished the role of the traditional storyteller. With our fast paced lives and electronic amusements we spend much less time simply listening to the stories of our friends and family.
Be it the foot of the bed with your children or a romantic dinner with your spouse, a happy hour conversation with a co-worker or a long car ride with a partner, it is becoming increasingly important that we carve out time to practice the fine art of conversation. Part of the ‘disconnect' that we feel as modern humans may be due to our longing to be heard, our need to connect with those we love by listening to their stories. Our stories sustain us.
In the field of education, research has shown that kids who grow up listening to stories are better prepared for school success. Oral language development, active listening and speaking, is the first step towards better reading and writing. As a former teacher who still performs in schools on a regular basis, it is easy to pick out the kids whose parents read to them and encourage them to tell their own tales.
In either an early elementary classroom or a corporate board room we can not underestimate the power of storytelling. Stories educate and inspire.
I have recently begun consulting with a local company, helping them to first define and then learn to tell their corporate story. It is thrilling to work with these executives who not only understand the power of story, but want to improve their storytelling skills. They see the potential of storytelling to impact their success in business.
Whether it is the bottom line or the chorus line, storytelling is the basis of all communication and the mission of all art. Cultivating the art of storytelling is vital. Ballet and opera tell stories. Painters and photographers capture moments, images within a larger story. Storytelling is the foundation of all great art, politics and business.
To promote a cultural renaissance we need to practice the art of deep listening. We need to create the venue where stories can be heard. We need to help the next generation find their voice. We need to celebrate poetry, dance, music, literature, mime, acting, painting, sculpture and all the mediums in which storytellers work.
Take the time to listen, create space for great stories to be told!