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What Great Storytellers Know
Read in 22 min.
Listen in 27 min.
Learn the key ideas of the book by Bernadette Jiwa

What Great Storytellers Know

How to tell stories that engage and move people

We are often led to think that people who are good at telling stories have a natural, innate talent. In What Great Storytellers Know, Bernadette Jiwa shows us the opposite: since the dawn of civilisation, everyone has always been able to tell stories. If we want to become better storytellers, however, we must learn to tell stories that have a positive impact on those who hear or read them, and that excite, involve, and transmit a message. This book is for people who want to hone their storytelling skills by structuring their stories, learning to find ideas for new stories, paying attention to detail, and writing in a mindful, empathetic, intentional, and courageous way.

What Great Storytellers Know
Read in 22 min.
Listen in 27 min.

The art and act of telling stories so as to have a positive impact on both ourselves and others

We often tend to think that the ability to tell stories is a gift; storytelling, however, is not just an art, it is an action, and it always has been. Our ancestors used to tell stories to make sense of the world, and to share their wisdom with the rest of the tribe. Indeed, stories are a powerful glue that can unite or divide the members of a community, teaching us all about the emotional truths that make us human. Often, the starting point for our stories comes from the experiences we have lived through. With this in mind, we can consider our past to be like a patient teacher.

Moreover, stories are also the most important and effective technology of persuasion that humans have at their disposal - a technology that each one of us can acquire and perfect in order to become a better leader, marketer, communicator or parent. Becoming a good storyteller is not simply a matter of learning to leverage your stories to get people's attention and to manipulate them. Rather, it is about learning to create a real connection with those who read or listen to us. Although our culture has taught us that persuasion is a trick used by people with bad intentions, it can actually be seen as an invaluable skill and a means by which to have a positive impact on other people. Like any other skill or resource, it can have both a negative and positive influence. It is up to us to decide how to use it - our intentions are what matters most.

If we want to forge deeper connections, spread our ideas, and help people make decisions they are happy with, then storytelling is merely the tool. We generally tend to focus on the storytelling part, thinking that, to become a better storyteller, you simply need to practice your body language and public speaking skills; however, the act of telling stories goes far beyond mere physical presence on a stage or the ability to write. A good story tells, informs, chronicles, and changes the way the public thinks. A wonderful story, on the other hand, moves and excites people, involves them in the outcome of the story itself, changing the way they act and experience emotions. 

We can all recall good stories to tell, but it's the way we tell them that will transform them into something wonderful. The goal is not only to convey information, but to capture people’s imagination, which can be done simply by being authentic. In this way, we will discover that the journey that you must embark on to become a better storyteller not only has an effect on your audience but also on you: storytelling helps us to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves. When we know ourselves better, and place value on finding, owning, and sharing our stories, we become stronger and more connected, and we become more able also in building resilient families, communities, and businesses. There are seven factors that must be cultivated to help us get to this point: presence, awareness, specificity, vulnerability, empathy, purposefulness, and courage.


The key ideas of "What Great Storytellers Know"

The art and act of telling stories so as to have a positive impact on both ourselves and others
Be present: choose where to direct your attention, and become the most interested person in the room
Be aware: turn normality into exceptionality, and create a library of stories to tell
Be specific: tell more using fewer words, and show emotions rather than describing them
Be vulnerable: telling a story is an act of faith that should be practised, even when you don't feel ready
Be empathetic: offer a gift to your audience, and tell your story with a goal in mind
Be intentional: structure the story, always keeping in mind the message you want to convey
Be brave: replace fear with gratitude, blaze your own trail, and make your voice heard
Take-home message
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