Share Your Story

Nov 2 22:00 2003 Steve Davis Print This Article

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Share Your Story
Storytelling is one of the most powerful methods to inform your
audience while increasing participation and trust.

As the pace quickens in our high-speed society, it's
increasingly important to turn at times, to good old fashioned
story-telling--an ancient art that feeds the hungry soul.
Coupled with pace is the fact that facilitators, being in front
of the room as they are, tend to be viewed as authority figures
by many participants, even if only subconsciously. While we tend
to ascribe lofty characteristics upon authority figures, it can
be valuable to your group to dissolve these potential
misconceptions with mild doses of reality from time to time.

Telling a personal story to your group, that is of course
relevant to the topic at hand, can be a fun, informative,
and interesting way to move your group. While at the same time,
introducing your humanity more fully into the room, and
increasing participants' trust in you.

What are the elements of a good story? Off the top of my head,
I'd say that most stories that support group process would have
some of the following characteristics:

- Stories relating personal experiences are best for
engendering trust.
- Stories should be succinct and interesting.
- Stories should contain some deeper message or meaning.
- Stories should be told well with appropriate emotional
engagement by the storyteller.
- The story should somehow relate to what you're trying to do
as a group and should ideally move the group forward.
- The story should not be used to avoid or dance around what's
up for the group.
- The story should not involve anyone who would take offense to
it being told publicly.

Now, let me tell you a story...

Long, long ago, when I was home for the summer after my freshman
year of college, I secured a job with a pear-packing plant in an
adjacent town. This was a manual labor job but involved a lot of
variety. On any given day, I might be finishing metal parts in
the machine shop, repairing fruit bins, doing light carpentry,
general cleaning, etc.

Then one fine day, out of the blue, the boss strolled up to me
with a push broom, a sweeping broom, and a dustpan in hand. This
was the big boss of the whole plant I might add. Big John Bar
was his name. He was a huge hulk of a man, with a brusque
temperament that didn't exert much energy on pleasantries and
could be just plain intimidating most of the time.

He handed me the brooms and said, "I want you to sweep out the
factory." I looked around at this huge factory that was around
50,000 square feet, and covered with machinery...conveyers,
movers, shakers, and contraptions of every conceivable type,
all bolted solid to the dirt and dust covered floor.

I replied, "Which part of the factory?" Hoping against hope that
this question would have some relevance. He replied with the
response I had most feared, "All of it." I took the tools
reluctantly and slowly began to survey what seemed like an
impossible job of endless drudgery for a mere 19 year-old home
for the summer.

I seriously considered quitting at this point, but something
inside prompted me to at least give this a try. So I began
pushing the broom. Stroke after endless stroke...stooping under
machinery...clearing the dust...sweeping it into my dustpan...
dumping dirt into the garbage can....hour after hour....day
after day....sweeping and sweeping...nothing but sweeping. Just
the broom and I in an endless dance.

I'm not sure when it happened, but somewhere around the second
or third solid day of sweeping, something began to shift inside
me. I was doing the sweeping the same way but I think that I
must have surrendered to the job or something. I guess I stopped
judging what I was doing and just did it. And in the midst of the
simple and mindless act of sweeping, my mind came to rest...and
began to reflect and review on my life to this point. It began to
reflect on my place in the world...my relationship to my parents,
my sibling, my friends, my desires, my memories, my actions...
thoughts and experiences all seemed to flow past in a continuous
panorama of insights and healing. I actually began to experience
a sense of peace, maybe even joy.

As coworkers walked by on their way to their next task, heads
down, serious and unhappy looking, I found myself smiling big and
yelling, "Good morning Jim! "How's it going Ralph? What are you
up to today John?" I think people were a bit confused as to why
I seemed so happy sweeping the whole damn factory.

That job took an entire week to do. Five days, eight hours a day
of nothing but sweeping. In reality, five days was probably quite
fast considering the scope of the job. Big John was even a little
surprised when I returned to him a week later with the brooms in
hand and smiling said, "All done!" To which he replied, "Already?"

I think that once I began to embrace the job I noticed that I
became very efficient and focused. And I could tell he was happy
with how I handled this job. I think it was a bit of a test. What
may have been a test for him actually turned into a "quest" for
me. One that I would have never undertaken voluntarily. And one,
the results of which, I would never have been able to anticipate.

Why did I tell you this story and how does it relate to
facilitation? I guess I just wanted you to know me a little better.
And to maybe be reminded of some things you may have forgotten in
your own lives. And as a facilitator, though I could venture a
guess as to what you got out of this story, I wouldn't dare do so.
Instead, I hold it up as a mirror for you to reflect upon
yourselves. I look forward to your hearing about what you saw in
this mirror.

Action
This week, use story telling in some way with your groups or in
your life as a gift to others. Also, I'd love to hear what this
story brought up for you and any insights around story-telling
and facilitation that you'd be willing to share. Please email
your comments to us.

1060 words.

About the Author
Steve Davis, M.A., M.S., is an Facilitator's Coach, Infoprenuer,
and free-lance human, helping facilitators, organizational
leaders, educators, trainers, coaches and consultants present
themselves confidently, access their creativity, empower their
under-performing groups, enhance their facilitation skills, and
build their business online and offline. Subscribe to his free
weekly ezine at www.MasterFacilitatorJournal.com. Contact him at
mailto:steve@facilitatoru.com.

Copyright 2003. FacilitatorU.com. All rights reserved.

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Steve Davis
Steve Davis

Steve Davis, M.A., M.S., is an Facilitator's Coach, Infoprenuer, and free-lance human, helping facilitators, organizational leaders, educators, trainers, coaches and consultants present themselves confidently, access their creativity, empower their under-performing groups, enhance their facilitation skills, and build their business online and offline. Subscribe to his free weekly ezine at www.MasterFacilitatorJournal.com.

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