Storyteller: (n) a person who tells stories.
Well, that was easy, right. If you tell stories, then you’re a storyteller! Catch you later.
Kidding. If you write novels or screenplays, then it’s pretty clear. You tell stories. But storytelling is more a part of all of our lives than we realize.
In the first Storyed box (February 2016), we include The Storytelling Animal, a book all about how humans were built for stories. As I’m writing this, I’m getting ready for March and we’ve locked down a book along the same lines. Humans have been telling stories since we could communicate with each other — and it’s a natural instinct that you should not only trust, but embrace.
Not with me yet? Thinking okay, yeah, I’d like to be a storyteller someday. Sooooooooome daaaaaaaaaaaay. Someday far away.
Stop that. You’re already a storyteller.
Many People, Many Storyteller Types
Writers are our most traditional storytellers — they tell stories that they’ve mostly made up or fictionalized from true stories. But actors are storytellers, too. They take a script and make choices about how to translate that story visually with their bodies and words. Ask any produced screenwriter or playwright what it’s like to hear your story one way in your head as you’re writing, and then witness it come alive, often in a very different way, through great acting. In the same way directors are storytellers, translating a script into images. But then, so is the costume designer. He tells a story through design and color an pattern and helps support the story the actors and directors and writers are telling all at the same time.
Ha! You say. I’m none of those things. Okay, but are you human? Well… yes– HA! I say back. Then you’re a storyteller.
Journalist? Well obviously, yes — you tell stories. At least that’s the way you should think if you’re work (and from my time as one, I know far too many who don’t take that approach).
Marketer or Publicist? If you don’t think of yourself as a storyteller then we’ve got some serious problems. You craft your clients stories and communicate them to the right audiences.
Business owner? This is so huge. If you’re not telling your story, then you’re not embracing the most power tool you have to engage your customers and potential customers.
Doctors? Nurses? Putting aside the use of stories to entertain and uplift your patients during illnesses or recovery (a tool that’s just so rarely used even in a hospital setting) think of how powerful stories can be to help patients adhere to treatment plans. I know one doctor who, after failing to vaccinate one of her children and watching him almost die as a result, uses that story to communicate the necessity of routine vaccination for all of her patients. How powerful would that be?
Athlete? My god, we love hearing your stories. Enough said.
Artist? Putting a story behind your work engages not only your own emotional base but ours as well. Try it out.
Administrative support? You’re the backbone of whatever office you’re in. Without you, it wouldn’t function. Think about what you know about your company and how you can communicate its values to your colleagues, to customers or clients, to the general public. You’ve got stories. Tell them.
Sales? The best of you already use stories to connect with prospects, so this one should be obvious. Hint: stories that connect and engage the best may not be about your product, but about you.
Photographer? Just look at this photo and tell me pictures — even candid, spur of the moment ones — don’t tell stories.
Parent? I bet if you think back, you can remember a relatively recent time when you told a story to your kids, even if it was short, like say, when I was little grandma used to take me to Burger King every Saturday morning in her Thunderbird. Boom. That’s a story that connects you to your child, and your child to a part of their family’s history. How awesome is that.
I could go on here. I really could. There’s no person on earth who can’t benefit from becoming a storyteller or, if they’re already embracing the role of story in their lives then a better storyteller.
The Storyteller in You
For some of you, especially regular readers, you probably fall into one of the ‘easy’ storyteller categories. That is, you’re a writer or actor or filmmaker — someone we can easily drop into the storyteller box.
Others, if might take some creative thinking. It’s probably not figuring out a way you can use story in your job or your life (though I highlighted some good examples), it may just be as simple as reframing what you’re already doing as storytelling. Putting the label on something you’ve already embraced means you can start to tackle it as a skill that you can practice and improve.
So go forth, and tell more stories.