Are there benefits to using storytelling? It may be hard to tell as there is so much noise and conversation these days about “storytelling” in nearly every aspect of our lives, businesses and communities. While every story-use niche has some specific benefits, here are just a few of many general truths about story and storytelling.
1. Emotional connection.
Storytelling is like opening a window into the minds of the listeners. Stories provide a chance to experience a variety of emotions without the risk of those emotions themselves. For small children emotions like wonder or fear or courage can be tested out in their minds as they listen(in safety) to a story. Adults may remember the feelings of emotions which can trigger memories or create resolve as a result of hearing stories. For youth and young adults, the experience of hearing stories can awaken portions of emotional lives that may have lain dormant or have not yet been explored.
2. Understanding Others.
Well-told stories can help us to learn about other cultures, ideas and ways of thinking. They can provide opportunities to know how past generations responded to challenges. They can also let us know how new generations are encountering and dealing with similar opportunities or the brand-new challenges they face. Stories can help non-profit organizations connect the lives of those they serve to those that support the organization. With children and teens, storytelling provides the soil wherein empathy for others takes root and grows.
3. Growing Intimacy.
People are thirsty to know that they are seen and heard in our overstimulated society. The rampant growth of “reality” TV shows certainly proves this. When personal and life stories are shared, there’s a chance to know that “I am not alone.” Unlike most reality TV shows, we hope the tellers of personal tales are reflecting on how they have grown and changed and are not just presenting tawdry tales for simple shock value.
As a professional storyteller, I know my audience is experiencing one of the above benefits as they listen to my serious or funny stories. I see their breathing change, their attention focus and their foreheads wrinkle or relax. So much is happening in our shared experience. The benefits of storytelling are many.
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Sean Buvala has been a professional storyteller since 1986 and is the director of Storyteller.net. He’s the author of numerous books on storytelling including the “Storytelling 101 EWorkbook” available at storytelling101.com.