Getting Into the Habit of Storytelling
As much as telling stories is etched into our DNAs, not all storytellers are created equal. Your C-level boss can still drone you to sleep with his annual report. Even your corporate communications director can overwhelm you with stories you are uninterested in. Transforming yourself and your people into effective and engaging storytellers (particularly in the workplace) entails training and repetition. One must get into the habit of storytelling to become great at it.
If you are a leader in your organization, you can get everyone in the habit of telling stories by making them go through what I call an “examination of one’s narrative”. Sounds like an examination of conscience, sure, but they actually follow the same process. If you are not in the position to initiate this, try this for yourself and get others to do this with you.
Start by simply asking yourself three questions: 1) What am I achieving today? 2) How was my day? 3) How did I change today?
Before you begin your day, go through the things that you plan to do for the day and visualize it like a movie in your head. In your list of to-do’s, is there anything worth noting? Which among these tasks would you consider to be potentially your biggest achievement when the day ends? How are you planning to execute them? Are your activities somehow related to each other?
When you end your day, ask yourself the question you’d normally ask your wife, kids, or friends: how was your day? We like asking this of someone but we rarely ask this of ourselves. Run through your day. How different was it from your initial plan? Did you deviate? Were you able to adjust? Did you change course? Did you dismiss tasks or add activities? And again, ask yourself how your activities are related to each other. Watch your day in your head, like a movie, like someone else’s story unfolding right before your eyes.
Lastly, ask yourself at the end of the day: how different am I from what I was at the start of the day? Did anything change in my outlook, my state, my attitude, my situation? Was I better? Or was I worse? How did my accomplishments and failures make me feel at the end of the day? It does not have to be a huge change to be considered something worth noting. It can be as simple as feeling lighter by the end of the day.
These three entail a lot of self-reflection, and possibly, some mediation if you have the time. Make time. Getting into the habit of introspection and visualizing the past and the future helps one develop a sense of story. These exercises will help one situate oneself in a narrative, which helps us make sense of our own existence.
Of course, all of this thinking and reflecting is best concluded by a writing or journaling exercise. Keep it simple. You can choose to write a daily journal to document your day. But if you’re not the type to write diaries, you can opt a more technical and possibly more fun exercise––a microfiction exercise.
At the end of your day, after doing your reflection, try to commit the scenes you have seen in your head into a 6-to-12-word microfiction. Fictionalize your day, and try to narrate the events into a micro fiction with only just six or twelve words. This is harder, sure, but I promise you, this is twice more fun than writing diaries.
Post your microfiction on your social media (or company social media) and invite everyone to do the same. Comment on each other’s micro fiction and see how slowly but surely, you get everyone into the habit of writing stories.