What Makes Telling a Personal Story Valuable?


East of Eden
How do you go about it? I can tell you that it's a long process and takes a lot of work. Because of one key element your story needs to have to be valuable — human context.

Tomorrow we will take the stage and #dareconfUSA and tell our stories. Mine was a defining moment in the arc of my life and the story arc will convey how much that decision has changed me from that point forward.

Stories without a turning point are just anecdotes. Peter Aguero, The Moth's StorySLAM host says:

“I’ve seen people tell stories about things that are really difficult for them. And you know, when they are telling the story, they are a little bit taller. They don’t have that stuff weighing down on them as deeply.” This isn’t easy, Aguero admits, but it is vital. “We’re all a product of every experience we’ve had, and some of it is good, and some of it is trauma, and some of it is really terrible. And you know, if you don’t deal with it — if you don’t confront it, you’ll never get over it, and parts of it will own your life moving forward.”

Storytelling isn’t therapy, he says. “But it is very therapeutic.”

What makes telling a personal story look easy — and valuable? How do you work with your material ofter you make a commitment to introspection and courage to share? Aguero and Larry Rosen, who is in charge of the community and education programs, say:

1. Pick a moment that’s important to you.

Easier said than done. Because of its significance to you. Who were you before the event? Who were you afterward?

“We like to say there’s a difference between what happened in your story and what your story is about”, says Rosen. “What your story is about is where the significance for you lives.”

2. Understand the story and its parts.

Think of it like the movie you are making with your story from start to finish, including why it matters.

here’s the “Once Upon a Time” section, where you open the story and tell the listener what they need to know about who you were. “Then One Day…” pulls the focus tighter on the actual event and can also be considered the “rising action”. The “Scene of Change” can occur anywhere throughout the tale, but generally it is the crux of the action — when something had to change.

3. Focus on the right details.

Keep things short to focus your audience, but also show them what you see.

The litmus test should be whether the details are feeding the arc or the journey you’re taking the listeners on. Or even better: are you keeping everyone on the edge of their seat?

[…] “Really live in the difficult moments”, he says. “Don’t skip over them. When that thing has you in an emotional turmoil, tell us about it — tell us how you feel. Really kind of swim in it, because that’s where the juicy, universal stuff is. That’s where you can really get to the stuff that makes us all human.”

4. Tell the truth.

Did what you are telling really mean something to you?

Really good storytellers that do it consistently show a moment where they are vulnerable — where they are kind of naked in front of you.”

5. Practice.

Practice, practice, and then practice some more. Because you want to bubble up the relevant details, yet not sound like you memorized the whole thing.

“The first time I tell a story and the twentieth time I tell a story, I should be able to be able to make discoveries in the moment, and that’s exciting for me as the person telling it”

6. Tell it.

When you are prepared, you have this gift to offer

Wield it wisely — you’ve no longer got a bar anecdote on your hands. You’ve got a weaponized memory, one that will change the way people think about you and themselves.

Aguero does a fine job of telling a story. He will have you on the edge of your seat.

Through our personal stories at the event, we will be illustrating how to use facilitation techniques to help groups discover common goals, making learning a habit to discover new opportunities, using nonviolent communication to connect with colleagues, and using coaching techniques to help people make their own decisions.

 

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[image Jill Clardy]


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