Tell me a Story
by: Ellene Meece
While their wide eyes are focused on the pages of the book, grandpa embellishes the written story with great voice inflection and drama. Even though they are still very young, the story comes alive with pictures materializing in their minds. The bedtime story becomes the best part of the day.
Can you remember the most significant story teller in your life? How did you learn from them? What treasured life lesson did you retain?
Storytelling--to relate a concept or principal in a powerful way--is an ancient concept. Jesus used this art fluidly.
For instance, instead of telling people how important it is to focus on God and His ways, Jesus said to them: "The kingdom of God is like a treasure buried in a field which someone finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field" Matthew 13:44. Suddenly, they could relate! God's ways are like a buried treasure. I must find it. I must make it a priority in my life.
Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States of America during the severely stressful civil war. As a leader, he is remembered for extraordinary speeches, but he is also remembered for being a first-class storyteller. Poet Walt Whitman describes Lincoln's ability:
As is well known, story-telling was often with President Lincoln a weapon which he employ'd with great skill. In the gloomiest period of the war, he had a call from a large delegation of bank presidents. In the talk after business was settled, one of the big Dons asked Mr. Lincoln if his confidence in the permanency of the Union was not beginning to be shaken-whereupon the homely President told a little story: "When I was a young man in Illinois,' said he, "I boarded for a time with a deacon of the Presbyterian church. One night I was roused from my sleep by a rap at the door, and I heard the deacon's voice exclaiming, "Arise, Abraham! the day of judgment has come!? I sprang from my bed and rushed to the window, and saw the stars falling in great showers; but looking back on them in the heavens I saw the grand old constellations, with which I was so well acquainted, fixed and true in their places. Gentlemen, the world did not come to an end then, nor will the Union now.
Point made! Without directly stating it, Lincoln conveyed to the arrogant bankers that they are but a speck on the timeline of eternity and the situation is not the end.
How does the power of storytelling relate to the workplace? Denis Haacak notes in his article, The Power of Storytelling: From Understanding Ideas to Indwelling Them:
Stories do more than enliven a presentation. They allow people to understand ideas, adopt them as their own, and indwell them. It is in that ability to indwell that we see great ideas start to take hold and for transformation to begin. And this is essential if the workplace is to be a place of true human flourishing.
Stories create the bridge from the abstract to reality. Stories can break tension. Stories paint a picture. Stories join our emotions to the facts. Stories are alive.
Next time you are asked to deliver a presentation that will capture the minds of your co-workers or asked to mediate in a conflict, relate an appropriate story. A personal story can create a level of transparency which causes your listeners to become engaged and really listen; therefore, a strong possibility the core of the message (the story) will endure.
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