One of my fondest childhood memories is of Grandma and Granddad’s summertime visits. Every year they flew over from England and spent several weeks with my family. We would save up our favorite summer activities—drives through the Columbia Gorge, walks in the Portland Rose Test Garden, backyard campfires, the Clark County Fair, a week at Seaside—to share with Grandma and Granddad and show off the great Pacific Northwest.
The BEST thing about those visits, though, was that Grandma would take over the nightly bedtime routine, singing songs and telling stories until way past bedtime. She wasn’t really good at getting us to sleep. But she was GREAT at telling stories. My brother and sister and I would listen with rapt attention, eyes wide open, not a bit sleepy, as she spun tales…
Grandma & Granddad and I, enjoying a “favorite summer activity.”
I’ve considered writing down Grandma’s stories, but the problem is there were so few words! In fact, she rarely completed a sentence. Her stories consisted of a few transition phrases, “He said… and then he… and she was like…” interspersed with miming and exaggerated facial expressions. You never doubted what happened—you could see it! You knew exactly how everyone felt because it was painted on Grandma’s face. You felt like you were really there, not just listening to someone tell a story.
Storytelling has become a lost art, and yet this skill turns information into something worth listening to. Want to make a memorable point? Tell a story. Want to excite and inspire? Tell a story. Want to sell a product, attract new clients, or start a movement? Tell a story. According to Seth Godin, “All Marketers Tell Stories.” Says Joanna Barsh, “If we want to lead, stories are one of the most powerful tools to mobilize others to follow” (Centered Leadership p. 178). Stories activate our entire brains: the cause-and-effect left hemisphere, the big picture right hemisphere, the instincts of the limbic system, and the emotions of the prefrontal cortex. Stories make information relatable and lead people to draw their own conclusions.
But so often when we try to tell stories, we bore people to tears! Why? Continue reading: “Lessons in Storytelling from Grandma”