The Single Most Important Lesson You Can Learn From Storytelling

I’m sitting on the train on my way home from a wonderful meeting with a group of business women with whom I have interacted on line, and finally got to meet in person.

It was a busy café, every table full and as each person arrived we squeezed in tighter, added another chair and spoke a bit louder.  I’m always fascinated by what happens when groups of strong, creative and passionate people get together.  To be honest, it can be a bit of a challenge sometimes.

You see, we all have such important and interesting things to say and contribute.  And everyone wants to have their say.  I recognize this because it reminds me of the home I grew up in.  Dinner time was always a lively conversation and everyone wanted to take part.

As the youngest in the family, I suppose I had to try hardest to get my voice heard.  Perhaps that’s why I became a storyteller.

But storytelling gave me the greatest gift of all, the one that was the most unexpected.  It was unexpected because at first I was not aware it was happening; that I was beginning to understand that great storytellers are also great story listeners.

I have had to learn to become a story listener.  And it has been the best and most challenging journey in my business and in my life.  By truly listening, we get to hear what is often opposite of what we assume.  It is through deep and attentive listening that we can be present to the people around us.

The meeting today was wonderful.  There was a lot of telling and there was also a lot of listening.  And it reminded me of my personal listening challenges and this wonderful story!  Enjoy it, and leave a comment below!

“Little Frog and Centipede”

Little Frog admires Centipede’s shiny brownness and asks him how he got that way.

Centipede says, “Listen closely, Little Frog, and I’ll tell you. Once when I was very young I asked my mother to take a pot and in that pot to put some oil and make that oil to boil. And then I…”

“You jumped in!” Little Frog interrupted, excitedly.

“No, Little Frog, that is not what happened at all. Now be still and listen, and I’ll start again.”

…but every time Centipede gets to “And then I…,” Little Frog interrupts him and jumps to the conclusion, “You jumped in!” So finally centipede says, “All right, Little Frog, you seem to know about my story than I do.” And he leaves.

So Little Frog runs home and asks his mom to take a pot and in that pot to put some oil and make that oil to boil, which, being a doting and indulgent mother, she does without question. Little Frog jumps in … and the hot oil burns and blisters him, which explains why to this day frogs have rough, warty looking skin. And it also explains why it’s really important to listen and not interrupt.

(– A folktale “from the Haya people of Tanzania” contributed by Susan Klein, Holt & Mooney Ready-to-Tell Collections, Megan Hicks)

Best wishes and best stories


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7 comments on “The Single Most Important Lesson You Can Learn From Storytelling

  1. That made me laugh! What a great story. I can be one of those impatient people I hate to admit : ).

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