What Great Storytellers Know: Seven Skills to Become Your Most Influential and Inspiring Self – Bernadette Jiwa
Learn to tell your story with Bernadette Jiwa’s What Great Storytellers Know. This book provides seven essential skills for becoming a great storyteller, from finding the extraordinary in the everyday to speaking from the heart.
Whether you’re a marketer, teacher, or parent, anyone can master storytelling to build trust and connection with their audience. Discover the power of storytelling to create change and inspire hope, and learn how to become your most influential self.
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Skill #1 Be where you are
The greatest storytellers have two superpowers. They are great listeners and first-class noticers.
In a fast-paced world, we’re so busy trying to get things done that we don’t allow ourselves to slow down and notice. It feels so tempting to walk and listen to a podcast at the same time. But this habit of killing two birds with one stone is also killing our storytelling potential.
For every podcast we listen to on our walk, we’re foregoing the opportunity to notice and ignoring a dozen potential stories.
Pay attention to the NOW
If you want to be a better storyteller, embrace the fact that you can’t pay attention to two things at once.
Your attention belongs to you, and you have complete control to reclaim it.
Here are a few suggestions:
- See with your ears and your eyes.
- Leave your phone in your pockets and look up.
- Listen for stories in everyday conversation—in cafes, on public transportation, at dining tables.
- Talk to strangers and look for the unfamiliar.
- Begin a sentence with “So, tell me about…”
- Watch how people interact with their environment and each other.
- Listen to a child.
- Slow down.
Skill #2 Find the extraordinary in the everyday
We’re so used to the stories of high drama on movie screens: Batman or Superman saving the day, rushing to the rescue of children who would otherwise plunge to their deaths. Not every story needs to be an epic tale of a caped crusader saving the world.
“Some of the best stories are about ordinary moments in our lives that teach us to be braver or kinder, more open-minded or loving.”
a colleague who challenges the status quo on behalf of the team. A partner who supports a dream A teacher who helps her students believe in themselves Great storytellers are always mining their lives and everyday encounters for stories. Oprah just did that for her Golden Globes speech.
Skill #3 Harness the power of the particular
The most common storytelling mistake is the failure to help the audience experience the story. Your goal is to take the audience on a rather emotional journey, not just a factual or chronic one. The best stories are not only true; they convey the truth by helping the audience live it.
When we’re specific, we take our audience on an emotional journey with us. They may not have experienced it firsthand, but they can closely relate to our story.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Describe tiny, true details.
- Zoom in on one small scene of a bigger story.
- Draw the reader or listener into a single moment in time.
- Help the audience experience the events as they unfold.
- Ground the audience with locations, character names, seasons, and so on.
- Paint a mental picture of what the characters are feeling, seeing, experiencing…
Skill #4 Speak from the heart
It’s one thing to know the steps to telling a great story. It’s another thing to tell it. Like every other skill, you master the art of storytelling by practising. You have to get yourself in front of people and watch and listen for what resonates with them.
“You could watch Roger Federer return serves all day long, but that doesn’t mean you could replicate them.”
Here’s a few ways to put this skill into practice:
- Become a kitchen table storyteller and tell powerful stories in everyday settings.
- Start a blog.
- Create a note-taking, story-writing ritual.
- Consider how you could rework stories you’ve already told.
- Reminisce with family and friends.