Storytelling is also for Introverts
When we see the word “storytelling”, we cannot help but see this image of the charismatic storyteller, surrounded by disciples and large crowds, delivering an eloquent speech and moving his audience to tears. Or maybe, in a smaller scale--a young storyteller in front of children, performing and dramatically narrating a story she is reading from a book. Immediately, there is the element of theatrics and performance associated with storytelling.
And so when an invitation to learn storytelling comes, one might say “no thanks, this is not for me.” Especially when one perceives oneself as an introvert.
I have always been preaching that storytelling is not just a communication tool. It is also a way of seeing things, a way of understanding the world, and a way of preparing the self or the organization for strategy building.
Storytelling is not public speaking, or delivering toasts, or introduction to a sales pitch, although all of these employ storytelling. It is not just a way to disarm someone so you can persuade them, a heart-wrenching anecdote to earn their trust, or a dramatic example so you can make a sale. All of these are the usual ways an extrovert might use storytelling especially in the corporate world. But what about us, the introverts?
How can you harness the power of storytelling if you are the shy type, one who would rather disappear into the background? How can you practice storytelling if you are not, and do not want to be, the designated storyteller in the organization. Here are three things that you can do:
Be a good audience. If you are not, or would not want to be, the storyteller of the company, then you can be the best listener. Listen and read the stories shared with you by your storytellers and provide honest and constructive feedback. How did the story make you feel? Was the storytelling clear and well-structured? Were you able to empathize with the protagonist? Was the situation relatable? Giving honest and constructive feedback to the storyteller allows him to improve the story and the delivery and it may even polish the collective narrative of your organization.
Understand and follow your collective narrative. If you are not the storyteller, you still can think and see in terms of story. Look at your organization’s collective narrative. Who is your company as a protagonist? What is its collective desire? What are the challenges it faces? Using a narrative perspective, how can your protagonist overcome the obstacles it faces? You can contribute to the building of your company’s collective narrative by helping draft a narrative strategy and maybe even become part of the strategic planning team.
Write your stories. If you are not the company preacher, you can be the writer instead. Too shy to face an audience? Write the story and have someone deliver it for you if necessary. Write anecdotes. Write blogs. Write newsletters. You can even write short fiction or poetry if you like. There are a lot of applications of the written form. In fact, writing your stories will help your organization document best practices, strategies, and even case studies that can be studied by the next generation of leaders. Writing stories is one of the most effective knowledge-sharing tools for an organization.
Remember, storytelling is not always preaching and performance. At its core is the arrangement of events and activities into a coherent and logical sequence that evokes drama and emotions. Although this powerful tool has always been in the hands of the thespians and the charismatics, some of us quiet ones can also harness this power in our own ways.