Every time I ask people why they want to get better at storytelling the answer is that they want to connect, create movement, make a change, enroll others or influence them towards a certain direction or action.
Very few people say they want to tell better stories so they can change how they see the world.
Otto Scharmer, in his book the Essentials of Theory U, tells the story of an American Jewish woman who shared at a workshop how her mother, a death camp survivor who had endured years of horror, decided that the only memory of that time that she would share with her children was of seeing the Germans lined up in the streets weeping as the survivors passed by after the camps were liberated.
Out of all the stories she could have shared with her children, the only one she chose was about the Germans’ humanity, sorrow and regret when confronted with the extent of pain that had been caused, and how the only thing they could do was cry.
As Pema Chodron says, every day we can think about what is going on, reflect on it and ask ourselves “Am I going to add to the aggression in the world?”
Telling a story adds something. It’s a contribution offered to the people who are listening, the possibility of changing the perception of reality, and most of all, it’s a conversation about who you are becoming when you tell the story that you choose to tell.
Every story offers a possibility to connect, to transform reality and ourselves at the same time.
When you choose a story you’re choosing how you see the world around you and what we’re going to remember.
Is your story about the unfairness of a situation, or the possibility of action in the midst of adversity? Is about victimization, or about empowering those whose fundamental rights have been violated? Is about blaming and shaming a bad boss, or bringing some light and compassion into the situation?
Stories are powerful. Choose wisely.
PS: It can be difficult to find the story you want to tell on your own. Sometimes we need a bit of perspective from others and a process that we can follow to make it easier. Scott Perry and I have created a mini-workshop on how to craft a story that connects. We need better stories. We need yours.