Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Arborday Visitors
Originally uploaded by The Marmot
Stories, such as narratives, myths, and fables, amount to a strong medium of exchange in human relationships. Stories speak to both parts of the human mind - its reason and its emotion. They can inspire and motivate people as they provide a tool for putting vision in to words. Stories can serve as a means for learning and communicating. They provide a powerful mechanism for capturing and leveraging knowledge, one that is complementary to logical thinking, or what we think of as "just the facts."

Fairhurst and Sarr(1996), in their book on framing, further explain, "Effective leaders present the world with images that grab our attention and interest. They use language in ways that allow us to see leader-ship not only as big decisions but as a series of moments in which images build upon each other to help us construct a reality to which we must then respond."

It has long been a practice of mine to mix personal or humorous stories in to almost all my presentations I make for work. Actually, I have become somewhat famous (or infamous) for this and frequently someone will call out for me to tell an “Aunt Dagmar” story as I get up to speak.

I think I grew in to this as I see storytelling as a performance rather than a mere act of narration. Thus when I tell a story I assume a persona that has no fear of public speaking, obviating the fact that I am really a shy person. I am extremely awkward when confronted with one or two people tête-à-tête as it were. But, put me on a stage and I am in hog heaven. This has led to some misunderstandings. Most people seem to feel the exact opposite about these situations. So when they come up to chat afterwards, or even worse during an obligatory rubber chicken lunch, and find that I am no longer my sparkling self; they assume that I am arrogant or aloof. This is not a good thing. But, if I have not changed by now I probably never will so I just have to deal with the fallout.

I use a form of storytelling when I give tours at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden as well. I think that people appreciate a plant more if rather than just giving them its name and then moving on that I tell them why I relate to it, why it has the name that it does, or how it can be used for food, fun, or fabric. This has been quite rewarding for me as at least once a season I will garner applause at the end of a tour. That is quite a boost to my ego.

Now, some educators fault me for being more of “sage on the stage” rather than a teacher. But I feel that my storytelling is interactive and does not create an imaginary barrier between me and the group. This is part of what distinguishes storytelling from the forms of theatre that use an imaginary “fourth wall.” The NSN says "that the interactive nature of storytelling partially accounts for its immediacy and impact. At its best, storytelling can directly and tightly connect the teller and audience."

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