Tag Archives: Healthy Communications

Storytelling: How to communicate to motivate

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Dangerous Old Woman

When was the last time you sat around a campfire, taking turns, telling or listening to stories? Do you miss that sharing? Is it lost to you, or can you open your heart and find that like an ember, that story and many stories are sitting inside you, ready to be lit afire?

This weekend my name finally made it to the top of the list at the library for the CD set, “The Dangerous Old Woman: Myths & Stories of the Wise Woman Archetype” by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés. I first learned of Dr. Estés through her book, Women Who Run With the Wolvesbut I especially enjoy the storytelling on her CD set. If you have any curiosity about the wise woman archetype or simply love stories, I strongly urge you to look into this series. Listening to her work is like being reintroduced to stories around a campfire. So powerful and so rich.

She begins with the fairy tale of Snow White and then goes into depth about its meaning and significance. I won’t spoil the details of her insight and would if I tried, but I will say, what a talented storyteller she is! I became so enchanted and lost in story, that when I awoke from her trance I realized I hadn’t experienced such a feeling in a long time. I remembered how powerful it is to hear story rather than to simply read it or write it. I also recognized how lessons and learnings seem to gel so much better in my brain and in my heart when I hear information tied to a story.

Which got me thinking, why as adults don’t we read fables to one another? Or maybe we exchange stories in a different way, for example, through a TV series or a Youtube video or a 140 character tweet. Regardless of delivery or content, what are the stories we tell ourselves and our children nowadays? What are the modern day fairy tales circulating out there? How has storytelling been cheapened or beautified by the process of globalization? And what is the value of storytelling? Does it still have value? What is it’s purpose? Can stories still offer us life lessons? Can we use stories to motivate others?

Well I am not coming on here to dole out answers nor do I have them all, but I can say with certainty that I need stories to understand, experience and connect to my surroundings, community and myself. Stories are invaluable to me, and yet I do not always praise and honor them. With the fast pace of life I do not often allow myself to tell my story, the kind that comes from deep within my heart. And then it occurs to me, so many of us have buried our stories so deep within us. And, then, because on a daily basis we operate from our minds alone, we lose touch with the heart of our story lines – cutting ourselves off from so many things like our cultural past/present, our highest self and our very life purpose.

Even though some days it may seem like the story is dead within us and the people around us, if we shift our perspective we can see that stories are still alive and thriving and impacting the very way we experience the world. They are not dead but simply need to be rediscovered, nurtured and ultimately transformed in a way that can be shared with others. For those of you who have taken the time to discover and heal and are now ready for the sharing part, you may feel like you have a story stirring in you, ready to come out to the world. So, how are you going to tell it? Is there a right or wrong way? It depends on your goals.

If you want to tell a story to motivate or influence someone, there are some methods to consider.  Infuse your story with a little bit of strategy and you can turn your tale into something bigger that may move others into action or that may move someone to share their own story. When we are all sharing our stories, we begin to be with ourselves and with one another in a way that offers true healing, learning and connection.

To help tell your story, click below for the Communicate to Motivate video from Prevention Speaks:

Prevention Speaks is a storytelling resource for healthy change in communities that is local (from Wisconsin). This website has a lot of great links and there you can pick up your very own storytelling tool kit.

Speaking Up For Change (and Health): Speak Your Mind, Mind Your Speech

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A man joins a religious order and takes a vow of silence. According to the rules of the monastery, he is allowed to speak two words per year.

After the first year the head Monk calls him in for a meeting and asks for his two words.

He replies … “Bed hard.”

After his second year the head Monk asks him again for his two words for the year.

He replies … “Food stinks.”

After the third year the head Monk asks him his two words for the year.

He replies … “I quit.”

The Head Monk says … “Thank goodness. You’ve done nothing but complain from the minute you arrived here!”

Like the character in the story, you have limited words to speak in your lifetime. Are you going to use them to complain or to spread positive energy? You have a finite number of breaths to take and limited time and energy. To quote Mary Oliver, “Tell me- what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Do you want to be remembered as someone who saw fault in everything or as someone who looked for opportunities to encourage and build up?

It’s sometimes a challenge to stay positive, especially at a time when you see so much inequity and suffering in the world. Do you speak up and call people and systems to account for their dysfunction, or do you bite your tongue on the basis that everything happens as it needs to happen, and in good time?

Even a few words of criticism can be deafening like a slow drip from a clogged gutter. The sound of silence can also be deafening when you feel that you have lost your own voice and no one around you is speaking up. As Simon and Garfunkel sang many years ago, “Silence like a cancer grows.”

Occupy Wallstreet

One of the most enduring, striking images to come out of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement is the man with the dollar bill taped over his mouth. The American dream where everyone has equal access to resources has turned into a nightmare where you scream for help because it’s all gone so horribly wrong but no sound comes out of your mouth. You feel silenced by a system that offers tax breaks for millionaires, enables corporate greed and turns the gap between rich and poor into a full scale chasm.

As MLK said, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

This is most certainly a time to speak up, confidently and clearly. Speak up because things are upside down and your carefully chosen words could help to put them right way up for you and others. Speak up, but do it mindfully, aware that your words have the power of both life AND destruction. Speaking up is a double edged sword, and the OWS movement does well to remember both the power of speaking up and the responsibility. The words you use when you speak are just as important as the choice to speak up. Choose words that come from your core values, and words that empower others to live their highest values. Speak your mind, and mind your speech.

Via Soul Seeds, see entire blog post with more tips on non-harming communications  by Ian Lawton, Speaking Up For Change.

I share the above post with great respect for Ian’s words. I discovered it in good time as I celebrate Lent, and one of the acts I have decided to do, is to complain less. How I wrote it was actually, “No complaining unless necessary.” At first this was my way of allowing myself some wiggle room, when I was going over my list yesterday I had to smile at my husband when I added these qualifying words. However, the more I thought about why I stated it that way, I understood that it was because I didn’t want the idea of not complaining to mean simply silencing myself which would not be good for my well-being–as mentioned above, “Silence like cancer grows.”

With that said, I am very happy Ian Lawton shared some of Marshall Rosenberg’s simple guidelines to compassionate, non-harming, healthy communication to keep me honest in my endeavor.

Four steps to express yourself non-violently

  1. Observing– State what you observe, from your own perspective, and without judgment.
  2. Feeling– Explain how what you observe makes you feel without blame.
  3. Needs– Explain what is at stake for you and others you care about.
  4. Request– Ask for specific, concrete, changes.

I add a preliminary step that I find necessary to allow the other steps to follow and that is, Stop, let it all out uncensored (in private), and self-assess: While we all tend to move quickly in fast-paced society, try waiting before you speak. Stop and ask yourself what is it that is really bothering you? Write it down if it helps. Do not censor yourself, blame all you want, sometimes you need to let it out to let it go. But then do not forget to evaluate, self-assess, remove the blame and your ego, and get to the core of the matter. Listen to your mind, heart, your gut, and your soul before you speak out. If it is really serious, talk to a mentor or an elder about your observations. I find when I complete this first step, I am well on my way to practicing mindful communications.