Is Storytelling Still Relevant?

In ancient times storytelling was the main form of
communication. It was the way that values,
traditions and history was passed on to the next
generation. The ways of the tribe, the lessons of
experience were all told through stories. There
was no other way.

And now, we have internet, television, radio,
cinema, theatre, books and lectures; the list goes
on and on.

So, why do we still need storytelling?

There are lots of reasons. I want to talk about
some of them.

Once upon a time we lived in communities where we
were known and supported, not only by our extended
families, but by a whole range of people that
lived near us.

Nowadays it is quite different. My story is very
typical. I grew up in a small Jewish Community in
Dublin, Ireland. Everyone knew who I was, the
daughter, sister, niece, friend of someone else
that they knew! Then I moved away. I moved, not
just to a new community but to a new country on a
whole different continent and then I moved again,
and again! Other than sporadic visits ‘home’, I
never did go back. Other than family, I have very
little contact with the people I grew up with.
Each place I lived was a new adventure and I had
to find a new community; sometimes I found one,
sometimes not.

Like me, most kids leave home to go to college or
get work and never come back again. There can be
a sense of isolation and there is definitely a
breaking-down of the existence of communities in
this modern world.

So, what happens to the stories?
Well, that’s exactly the point. We still need
them. We still need to know how to live with
tradition and values and the lessons of experience
and history, just often we don’t have the
structure that tells us these crucial stories.
This is why there is such a strong craving for
personal connection and a sense of belonging.
This is part of why people want and need to hear
stories.

Do people really want to hear stories?
Absolutely and always; I have yet to meet a person
who does not like to hear a good story!

One reason is that stories reconnect us. On so
many levels (individual, community and society
levels) people are looking for a connection, a
truth, a sense that their life has meaning.

Annette Simmons says, in her amazing book ‘The
Story Factor’ – ‘when you tell a story that touches
me, you give me the gift of human attention…the
kind that connects me to you, that touches my
heart and makes me feel more alive…We crave
something that is real or at least feels real’.

People also crave the simplicity of the story told
by one person to another. We are too often
overwhelmed by information, we have too much
choice. Think about it, every time you decide to
do anything, you have a million choices. Whether
it’s going to a movie or buying a loaf of bread,
even if you want to get a cup of coffee. And
there is so much technology involved! Don’t get me
wrong, I love technology but sometimes I have a
question that I simply want one answer for, I
dont want to know everything there is to know
about the issue. Just tell me what I should do.
Where do I buy a toaster? I don’t need to know
about the phenomenal advances in toaster
technology or even about the 150 suppliers that
have the absolute proven best price, best quality.
I just want make a piece of toast without burning
it so that I can spread on some butter and eat it
with a cup of tea.

In this world of ever changing technology,
sophistication and choice, people are craving the
simplicity of storytelling; they crave the
stories, the listening and the telling. There is
a void that the information age and technology
cannot fill. Storytelling seems to remedy the
very same void that people are looking to fill
when they come to coaching.

‘Something is happening in the power and practice
of story; in the midst of overwhelming noise and
distraction, the voice of story is calling us to
remember our true selves’, Christina Baldwin, ‘The
Storycatcher’.

Next time you need to connect to a community, to
remember the lessons of old and remember your true
self, start listening and telling stories!

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