From a very early age, I loved listening to stories. As soon as I could read, stories were my escape and my inspiration. Stories have this incredible power to transport us to a new and different reality, and to see the world through different eyes, and to feel it with different emotions.
Stories can help us heal, can help us understand, and can offer insight into ourselves and the people we share our life with. When you think of it, every world religion is based on a collection of….. stories. I think stories are part of what attracted me to the Jewish faith. Whenever I had a question for my rabbi (rabbi means “teacher,” by the way), he’d never tell me what to do. Instead, he would say: “Let me tell you a story.”
Now, in the beginning I didn’t understand why he couldn’t just give me a straight answer. Wasn’t he supposed to be the authority on all things Jewish? When I asked him that, he told me another story about a man who was lost and had found the way.
Suddenly, things clicked for me.
BRINGING ABOUT CHANGE
If you wish to facilitate positive change in someone, you can try to convince that person by means of logical reasoning. That’s what usually happens in politics. You point out all the reasons why the other party is wrong, and why you are right. What you usually get is an argument where both parties defend their position and strengthen their own beliefs.
And nothing changes.
As my mother said to me: “People don’t do things for YOUR reasons. They do things for THEIR reasons.”
The power of stories doesn’t depend on intellectual debate or rational reasoning. Stories appeal to us on an emotional, subconscious level, and that’s the level where true transformation takes place. You can’t argue with a story. You sit back, listen, and take it all in.
Consider this: if all of us could change through logical reasoning and conscious decision-making, no one would ever overeat, or commit a crime, right? You’d just tell people why what they are doing is bad, give them all the scientific facts, and people would magically come to their senses. Problem solved!
But it doesn’t work that way, does it?
Change isn’t only a matter of the mind. It’s a matter of the heart as well. Hence the expression “a change of heart.” That’s why the most effective commercials will try to pull our heartstrings in the most manipulative ways. See for yourself:
Don’t tell me you weren’t affected by that short story!
Stories are effective in more ways. For one, it’s easy to forget a list of reasons why you should buy something or do something, but you will always remember a good story. Stories are also effective because they often describe a journey from a problem to a solution. During the adventure, the hero gets access to resources that help him or her deal with adversity and overcome obstacles. Isn’t this the plot of many movies?
In essence, stories are metaphors. A metaphor is an analogy between two seemingly unrelated things, to show how one resembles the other in some way. Metaphors appeal to the creative brain, the center for our solutions.
What makes stories a truly great teaching tool, is that they give the listener/reader the FREEDOM to find his or her own meaning and answers.
I recently spoke to someone who was interested in my coaching services. He asked me about my philosophy and teaching style. When I told him that one of my tools is storytelling, he responded:
“I value your experiences but wouldn’t want our time and focus to get lost in stories.”
I completely understand where he is coming from, by the way. A fellow voice actor once signed up for a class with a renowned VO coach. He said: “I saved all my money only to hear her talk about herself all day long. That’s not what I paid for.”
See what I did? I just told you a story!
IT’S NOT ABOUT ME
While I will draw on my own experience from time to time (that’s usually the reason people seek me out), many of the stories I tell don’t come from the world of voice overs. It’s up to my students to make meaningful connections. If you’re looking for examples, read this blog and follow me on Instagram. You’ll see what I mean.
As a coach, my ultimate goal for you would be to find your own solutions and strengths. I don’t want my students to accept something because I say so. I want to inspire and encourage them to come up with a creative solution that resonates with them, for their reasons, not mine. Those are the lessons that tend to last longer and go deeper.
My job is to open minds. Not to stuff them with things that would make them a clone of their teacher.
I also want to live what I teach. As a judge for the One Voice Awards I noticed that the best voice overs are usually the best storytellers. Through my coaching I want to set an example for the people I work with.
DOES IT REALLY MATTER?
And should you ever think that a story is just a story, and that it’s nothing but a trivial distraction…. find out about the origins of Hanukkah, or go to church on Christmas. You’ll see how stories inspire generations and transform lives!
Storytellers can change the world, one person at a time!