Why Storytelling is the Key to Understanding and Learning

Judy Rosemarin
Judy Rosemarin

When I was in 4th grade, Ms. Leigh was my teacher and while not the most attractive woman, weighing more than she should have, going bald with only a few remaining black hairs on her, the children loved her. To see her at first glance, you might have certain assumptions, but she was able to move you quickly beyond your biases because we knew she cared about us, and boy did she know how to tell a story!

Once Upon a Time

Back in our classroom, after recess, our energies still wildly high, she knew how to immediately settle us down and create a listening space. Miss Leigh would take her big ol’ self, in her same old blue ankle length dress, and sit herself down behind her huge desk and gently gaze out over our giggling and restless selves and say quietly, “Once upon a time…“ and immediately, we were hers!

All movement stopped. All talking ended, not even a whisper, because we knew that we would be in for a treat. We would go on an adventure, she would take us some place magical, or new, or unusual. We would listen to a story that would slowly or suddenly capture our attention, and that would teach us something but never in a way that made us feel pressured or imposed upon.

Her “Once upon a time” settled us down, for Ms. Leigh must have known that all humans are wired for stories.

Lessons Learned

Ms. Leigh also knew what her intention was. She first wanted to create a listening space for each story she would read and then have us learn lessons contained in each story. It was easy, too. Stories stick in the minds of listeners, they help people learn, retain and start thinking differently. Storytelling was and is key to understanding and learning. And I still remember the stories to this day!

Fast forward to your world. You are not in fourth grade and so when you are creating key messages for an interview with a reporter or to use in your presentations, you may not be able to use “Once upon a time,” but you can say, “I would like to tell you about a time when…” or “For example, I was in charge of…” or “You may not know this but we are excited about…”

Connecting with your audience

What you want to do is create a listening space, as Miss Leigh did. And the story you select will be clear with intention: to assure, to get people to act, to help people understand, or to help people think differently. And you will connect to your audience oh so quickly.

If you have any doubt that the power of storytelling is not just for kids, take a look at the research conducted by Dr. Lauren Silbert. It indicates that when the storyteller speaks and the listener listens, both their brains are lit up the same way! MRI images show that the listener’s brain lights up in the exact same pattern as the storyteller’s. Talk about a meeting of the minds! Now, don’t you want that when you speak or make a presentation?

Get Your Listeners Humming

After you have gotten their attention, don’t you want your message to stick? Yes, and what you want to do is create a “Humaway™” in your listeners’ minds. You ask: What is a “Humaway?” Well, think about the last time you left a great concert or a fabulous musical. You probably found yourself humming a memorable tune, well after the show ended.

You were experiencing a “Humaway” and you were humming because it stuck with you, it touched you, without your being told to remember it. That’s what I call a “Humaway and you need to learn how create one in the minds of your listeners so they keep humming the message you want them to remember.

So, what’s your “Humaway?”

Judy Rosemarin is an Executive Coach and Founder of Sense-Able Strategies, a 29-year-old career management firm. She is also Co-author of the newly published “Becoming An Exceptional Executive Coach: Use Your Knowledge, Skills and Intuition to Help Leaders Excel. Judy coaches senior executives in Intentional Leadership and Influential Listening on a one-to-one basis as well as offers training in Humaway™ Business StoryTelling for both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. She loved Miss Leigh.

© 2012   Judy Rosemarin
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