Tell me a story – Article by Sanja Stefanova

When you tell a story, you spark a connection. That is how humans have communicated since the beginning of time —by telling stories. As human beings, we are automatically drawn to stories because we see ourselves reflected in them. Good stories do more than create a sense of connection. They build familiarity and trust and allow the listener to enter the story where they are, making them more open to learning. Storytelling is something we all do naturally, starting at a young age, but there’s a difference between good storytelling and great storytelling.

This year I had a unique experience to work with an amazing international group of youngsters on their personal stories. The result was more than I anticipated! The participants had a chance to boost their creativity by challenging their imagination with words, stories, and emotional reflection. Through the Storytelling module, they realized and learned that being creative can manifest in many different forms and that they can use those skills daily without even knowing. The creative expression triggers their emotional development and gives them the freedom to explore the surroundings of being in another person’s shoes and learn new things from that role.

I used The Stanislavski’s Magic ‘If’ method which may be one of the most useful tools available to actors today. This method is used to get actors to start up their imagination in order to discover new and interesting things about the character they are playing. What is to be believable in unbelievable surroundings, “What would I do if I found myself in this (the character’s) circumstance? The ‘magic if’ method simply puts participants in the character’s shoes within a certain scenario and asking the question ‘how would I react if this happened to me?’.

I will share with you some more practical games and explanations in my next storytelling and drama article. I am using this method especially in my work with young people in order to create a connection with them, to make them feel comfortable and to build trust. When youngsters become engaged with stories (especially someone’s else story) it sparks an interest in the motives of the characters and the conflicts they face. This fires them up, promotes expression of ideas and purposeful discussion. By becoming emotionally invested in the story, young people are more inclined to any learning opportunities that follow. Storytelling creates more meaningful learning opportunities than just being presented with facts and information. This is because stories contain people and we’re hard-wired to connect with human motives, feelings, and experiences. Stories teach us about hope. They remind us how valuable and intrinsically meaningful our lives really are, even when at times we don’t feel they are. Stories have to be able to reflect reality in order for a connection to be ever be made.

This reflection of the world sheds light on own reality and allows our minds to open up and reach for something bigger and better. Storytelling as a method is more than just reading the words of a story out loud. It takes other skills as well. It is important to be able to use different tones in your voice when you are telling a story. If your voice stays at the same level, it is boring! You will want your voice to go higher and lower. You will want your voice to go louder and softer. We practice this with games. These games help youngsters too develop additional skills like self-confidence, public speaking and improv theatre.

Every single person has a unique story. EVERY STORY IS UNIQUE… AND THE SAME. Indeed, every story we tell is unique, and every story we tell is the same because it’s the structure of a story that fosters that creativity and uniqueness. In other words, our individual story is ours. It is special because it belongs to us. But at the same time, we need to recognize that our story is probably very similar to someone else’s – If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.


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