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Storytelling 101

Submitted by Derek Alton on October 28, 2012 - 10:27am
Insights from a storytelling workshop


The best workshop I have gone to so far at Powershift 2012 has been on the Art of storytelling.  The speakers have talked about how in the climate movement much emphasis has been put on facts to prove our point and to help people see the dangers we face and the necessity for change.  However, facts can only you take you so far.  What really speaks to us is a story.  A story allows us to empathize with another, to feel, even if only for a brief moment, in community with another person and to share an experience with them.  A good story is the art of building community with someone.

I am amazingly fortunate to have a job which allows me to hear people’s stories and it is true, it brings you into their lives and your feel a deep connection with them and their experiences.  The key to it all is empathy, I think it is one of the most special things about being human is our ability to empathize with others and it is the key to building a strong community.  If you ever have some time, I highly suggest the book The Empathic Civilization by Jeremy Rifkin and if you do not have time I suggest you read this much shorter article by the same title.

The story model we learned about was the me-we-now model that was popularized by the Obama 2008 campaign.

Me – why do I care

We – why should we care

Now –what we can do

In this model you start with a personal story with a problem, that we are able to connect with.  Then you invite the other person into the story by switching from me to we which also invites them to the problem or tension.  Finally you look forward and lay out an action that can be taken to remedy the problem and remove the tension.

The other thing was talked about was the idea of the hero's journey.  This is an archetypal story model that resonates with us very deeply.  It is one that you are already very familiar with as it is found in many movies and books.  Here you have a person (your hero), they face a challenge and leave on a journey to remedy it.  On this journey they must fight inner demons but through this battle they are opened to a deep insight or wisdom.  They then rejoin their community and bring this wisdom to their community and teach it to them to help the community overcome a problem.

Our presenter said, we are all on this hero’s journey right now.  We have left our society's current way of being and are on a journey to find a new way of living.  We then will bring this insight back to our communities and try to inspire others to join us on this hero’s journey.

Will you join me on this journey?  What are your thoughts and reflections on this?