Humans communicate. That’s what we do. But most of the time we communicate without really sharing. Think about those words you send out into the ether:
- can you meet Tuesday?
- are you almost here?
–and all the other email and text ephemera pushed out by our thumbs and finger pads. I am not saying that these everyday communications are meaningless, but these communications do not have the power of story.
Storytelling is a pure and powerful form of sharing.
We have been telling our stories, the small ones and the big ones, for a long time. There are so many reasons to share our story, but we often stop because telling takes vulnerability. Brene Brown, social worker and vulnerability researcher, explains that being vulnerable demands courage. After all, the word courage comes from the Latin word cor meaning “heart,” and the original definition of courage was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.
But, there is so much to be gained from this vulnerability, both for you and for those with whom you share. David Isay started StoryCorps, a project focused on collecting narratives. He placed soundproof booths in Grand Central Station and invited people to come in and interview each other. As he explains in his TED talk, “You sit across from, say, your grandfather for close to an hour and you listen and you talk. Many people think of it as, if this was to be our last conversation, what would I want to ask of and say to this person who means so much to me?” The result of StoryCorps is both an archive of conversations—stories—and, more importantly, countless meaningful connections.
David Isay says of listening to these conversations, “I’ve learned about the poetry and the wisdom and the grace that can be found in the words of people all around us … I’ve learned about the almost unimaginable capacity for the human spirit to forgive… and how the arc of history truly does bend towards justice.”
You too can learn and teach these things. The beauty of storytelling is that it can happen anywhere. Can you recall a day from when you were a sophomore in college that you realized you were resilient? Would that be a powerful story to share with your 18-year-old son? Did your aunt grow up in Sweden? How wonderful would it be to learn about the color of the mittens her mother knitted for her, the way she loved the long and cold winter? What can you share, what can you gain?
This is a fast world we live in, with many forms of communication occurring rapidly and simultaneously. Amidst this, we must take the time to pause and share. Today I want to leave you with a particularly apt quote from poet Mary Oliver:
“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”
What will you tell about today?
Interested in learning more about the power of storytelling to develop a life of resilience, connection, and meaning? Check out my Write Into Joy workshops to learn how to build resilience and joy through journaling & reflecting. Click here to see a list of upcoming workshops.