As my Nana’s jewelry slid through my little girl fingers, it felt cool to the touch but heavy with memories. I felt a jittery excitement whirling around in the pit of my stomach in getting to explore her jewelry box.
That’s one small example of master storytelling coach Marsha Shandur’s memory scavenger work with me. We originally met at a Camp Good Life Project (aka summer camp for creative souls) & then I hired her to help me craft the story behind my Life Lenses™ work.
Given this month’s Learning & Development Roundtable (June 22nd) theme of storytelling, I asked Marsha to share her top tips & insider’s advice on all things storytelling with you.
Q: Why is storytelling so important these days?
Why not, is the question.
Study after study has shown that we base our decisions on our emotions (then reverse-engineer to justify them with our intellect). And storytelling is one of the quickest ways to affect people’s emotions.
Telling stories is one of the ways we decide almost instantly if we like someone or not. It’s a fast-track to telling someone a lot about your personality. So if you want to find your people, and have them like you? You need to tell stories.
Storytelling affects completely different parts of the brain than facts. And when you tell a story live, your brain gets in sync with your listener’s brain. And if you tell stories well (see below), your reader or listener’s brain releases dopamine – a reward, which also helps with information processing and memory retention – and oxytocin – which helps with bonding and trust.
So if you want to be remembered, if you want to be understood by the person you’re speaking or writing to, and if you want to create connection and trust: TELL STORIES.
Q: I’m guessing you hear “but I’m not a storyteller” a lot. How do you deal with that (& other ahem, excuses)?
The biggest myth about storytelling is that you ‘have the gift’ or ‘you don’t’. It is absolutely a LEARNED SKILL with a set of rules you can follow. That’s why we all know that one person who could tell any story and be fascinating, and we’ve all been stuck at a party with that other person who we’re sure did something interesting, but dear gods, when will their story end. The former is using the rules, the latter is not.
In five years of running my live storytelling show, True Stories Toronto, and with a two year waiting list to tell, I have never turned away a single storyteller.
You can do this. I promise you.
Q: Okay you got us, where do we start?
Or if you don’t have time to click: stop thinking about narrative and start thinking about action scenes, like in a movie. Ask yourself these two questions, over and over:
1. What did it look like?
2. How did I feel?
Q: What are the top 3 things you’ve learned as storytelling coach?
1. Storytelling makes people you don’t know feel like they’re your friend and they want to follow you/your cause
2. With practise, effort and a willingness to, absolutely anybody can learn to be a great storyteller
3. We all walk around, all day every day, thinking that everyone else has their sh*t together, and *I’m the only who doesn’t*. Telling stories with emotion shows people that it’s ok not to be perfect, defeats shame and builds empathy.
Given that lack of empathy is the root of all evil, telling stories DEFEATS EVIL.
Q: Sounds awesome. Where should we go if we need help / more info?
- Try this exercise. Next time you’re telling a story, include the answer to the question,
How did you feel?
Or next time someone is telling you a story, ask them the same question. Then see how much more you enjoy the experience.
Annnnnnnd take action
- Check out Marsha’s storytelling tips
- Try her exercise: Next time you’re telling a story, include the answer to the question – How did you feel?
- Join me for my free learning & development roundtable June 22nd (you can participate virtually) on storytelling using video.