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April 26, 2012 at 3:28 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

4 Reasons Storytelling Is Really Good for You

By Matthew More Blogs by This Author

Welcome back to Extreme Existence, where we focus on all of the activities that make life exciting.

I used to be terrified to tell stories. When I was eleven, I had an assignment where I had to go and read a book to the kindergarten class. This seemed utterly terrifying, so when my time to read to them came, I simply didn’t go. A few days later my teacher approached me and asked me why I hadn’t shown up for reading time. I told her that I had decided to take a zero on the assignment. She must not have liked my answer very much, because she took my by the shoulder and marched me down to the school library, watched me as I picked out a book, and led me into the kindergarten classroom, shutting the door firmly behind me.  I remember all of the little faces looking up at me. I was pretty sure they were judging me, those persnickety little five-year-olds. Reluctantly, I sat down on a tiny chair and quietly began to read.

We naturally communicate through stories. Since you were two years old, you have probably been telling stories, telling your parents about your day or making things up as you played with your toys. We need stories to survive. Whether we are catching up with a friend, reading to children, or meeting a new person, we need stories to deepen our relationships with each other and help us to find clarity within our lives.

Here are some of the benefits of telling stories.

It’s More Than a Storyteller

When a man tells a story, does he do it alone? No. There is always someone there to listen to him. When it comes to telling stories, listeners are just as important as speakers. They are the ones who receive and interpret his messages. A good listener pays attention to the story and applies it to herself. She understands the importance of the story and responds to it. In this way the storyteller and the listener work together to provide meaning and clarity.

It Creates Empathy

So much communication nowadays focuses on competition and argument. Companies compete to sell products. Politicians butt heads over their differences on issues. We like to debate, to attack, to conquer. Storytelling does the opposite. In a world where there is nothing but competition, stories function to bring people together. When I tell a story, it doesn’t matter how different my listeners are. It doesn’t matter how different they are from me or each other, because when I tell them a story, they become unified. All of us, the speakers and the listeners, find ourselves in the same space, in the same time, and feeling the same things. We are unified. We laugh together and we cry together. We struggle together and we are victorious together.

It Helps Us Learn

When we tell stories, we open ourselves up to an entirely new way of understanding. Other forms of communication tell us facts and show us ideas. However, when we experience these things for ourselves, we are able to interpret the facts for ourselves. Imagine someone is telling you a story that you can relate to. It’s basically the same, but it’s in her words. Something about her words clicks in your mind, and you suddenly understand your own situation better. You are suddenly able to see your story from a different viewpoint. This may allow you to reach a better understanding about yourself and the world around you.

It’s Therapeutic

The act of telling a story helps people to overcome difficult or traumatic events.

When something terrible happens to you, the best thing you can do is to tell your story. Sometimes when I have a bad day I just want to vent for a while. Telling my story helps me to relax and eventually move on. The same thing works at funerals. Why do people tell so many stories at funerals? They do this because telling the story allows them to work past their grief.

In addition, storytelling helps people to know that they are not alone. We all have our struggles, and it's easy to think that we are the only ones with a problem. Stories remind us that other people deal with the same issues every day. They have fought the same issues felt the same emotions. In this way, we tell stories to build community with each other, helping each other through our difficulties.

I remember very little about what happened after the door to the kindergarten class closed. I remember feeling quite hot, and I remember that the teacher asked me several times to speak up and to speak slower. I’m pretty sure that day I gave the worst rendition of Goodnight Moon ever. But I still did it; I told a story.

Nowadays, I am a much more active storyteller. I am no longer afraid to share a tale with other people because it allows me to show them a little bit of who I am. Not only that, but I get to learn from them, too. Telling stories isn’t just something we do; it’s a way of life.

What's your story? How have stories shaped your life?

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