What Can Storytelling Teach Us About Creating Connection?  | Doug Lipman | TEDxWilmingtonSalon
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What Can Storytelling Teach Us About Creating Connection? | Doug Lipman | TEDxWilmingtonSalon


Translator: Juliana Marín
Reviewer: Tanya Cushman Hidden inside of storytelling are some invisible ways
to create connection. How did I first experience that? 1970. November. A rainy Tuesday. I was sitting in my parked car, trying to gather up enough courage
to go into my job yet another day. I was a first-year teacher of young teens
with “behavior problems,” and I wanted to be the adult ally
that they’d never had. But all I saw from them
was the crossed arms, scowling faces. I tried everything
I could think of, week after week. By this day in November, I’d given up. I’d even started coming in to work
a little later every day. And this day, I was so late the teachers would already be
in their classrooms – the other teachers. They wouldn’t even notice when I came in! That did it! I got out of the car, went running through the rain,
drops beating on my head, I opened the big wooden door
to the school … and there were all five
of the other teachers. So much for stealth entry! I said, “What?” “Doug, the assistant principal is out sick.” “No!” You see, the assistant principal was the one who, on rainy days,
would cram all 70 teens into one room, keep them busy until classes could start by telling them stories. “Are they in there?” “Yes! Do something!” “I heard a recording of a folktale
the other day. Maybe I could tell that?” “Yes!” They shoved me in the room,
closed the door behind me, and there I was. The only adult in a room
with 70 angry teens. I said, “I’m going to tell you a story.” And they gave me a look like, “It had better be a good one,
like the assistant principal tells!” Could I even remember the story? Okay, there were three basic episodes. I could sort of remember the beginning. They’re looking at me! I’ve got to start: Jack and his mother
were having a hard time. And Jack had to go out into the world,
alone, to find his own fortune. When I got that far, I looked at them, and they had shifted from this to this. Their arms had loosened just a little;
their eyes had rolled up just a little. It was a tiny change. But after two months of no change,
it was like the angels were singing. Hallelujah! I was encouraged,
so I kept telling the story. And as I told it, I realized, in the story, the teens
were on Jack’s side. I was on Jack’s side. In the story, we were on the same side. When the story was over,
they tightened up again. But it was too late: I’d already glimpsed what it could be like
to be connected to them. So I went back to trying
to be on their side. Three months later, a day in February,
I looked around my little classroom, and there they were, working happily
together in teams of two and three. And I thought, “They did it!” And now, all these decades later, I think back to that rainy
Tuesday in November, and I think, “The story did it.” It certainly changed my life. I mean, it exposed me
to this force that was so powerful I felt compelled to master it,
to understand it, to teach it. So, what had I done on that rainy Tuesday? Looking back, I believe that, unknowingly, I used three strategies
for creating connection that are built into
the very process of storytelling. And to explain the first strategy,
I need to ask you a question. You remember the teens in the room? Well, in your mind,
how were they arranged? Raise your hand if, in your mind,
they were seated at desks. Raise your hand if, in your mind, they were sitting, standing
randomly around the room. Raise your hand if you have
any image in your mind of how they were arranged, whether you raised
your hand before or not. You might not have had visual images. You might have imagined sounds:
auditory images. Or feelings in your gut:
kinesthetic images. But the key thing to notice is I didn’t say a word
about how they were arranged in the room. I told you that there were 70 of them
and they were crammed in, and I showed you how they looked. But every single thing
that you and any one of you imagined in addition to those things is something that you created
purely in your own mind. In other words, each of you was a co-creator of the story that you imagined. Well, it turns out that people
are more likely to connect with you if you don’t treat them
as passive recipients but as active participants,
as co-creators. And that’s the first strategy
for creating connection that’s built-in to the very
process of storytelling. How do you do that? How do you treat
someone as a co-creator? Well, for starters, you focus less
on saying the right thing, and you focus more on stimulating
your listeners to imagine. What’s the second strategy? Well, we know from research that if you engage people in what I call
“concept mode” or “idea mode” – calculating, evaluating, following logic – then those people
are more likely to be focused, but less likely to be open
or to be generous. But if you engage those
same people in “image mode” – imagining, associating – they’re more likely to be open, to be generous,
and to respond with empathy. So when I told that story to the teens,
it put them into image mode, and that made it easier for them
to care about Jack and to be open enough to me
to engage in my story. So, if the second strategy
is to engage people in image mode, how is that different
from the first strategy, “co-creation”? Suppose I ask you to solve a math problem. Well, you’ll be in concept mode,
and you won’t be creating. But if I help you create
your own math problem, you’ll still be in concept mode,
but you will also be in co-creation mode. If I ask you to make an exact drawing,
copying my drawing, you’ll be in image mode,
and you won’t be creating. But storytelling has the amazing ability to combine the image-mode strategy
with the co-creation strategy, by helping your listeners
create their own images. So, how do you do that? How do you engage people in image mode? One important way
is to be in image mode yourself. So that means imagining, experiencing
every moment of your story in your eyes or your ears or your gut
or your skin – in your whole body. So for the third strategy,
I need to bring you back to those teens. Remember I started the story,
and they loosened up a little bit? Let’s break that down. I said some words:
“Jack and his mother” and all that. And in response to that,
they loosened up a little bit. And then in response to their loosening, I got encouraged. And then in response to my encouragement,
they got more engaged in the story. And so we had begun a cycle of responding to each other’s responses. And every time that cycle went around, it knit us a little more tightly together. The best word I have
to describe that cycle is “rapport.” I mean, literally rapport
is a feeling of mutual understanding, that I believe can be increased
and even induced by this kind of mutual responsiveness. It’s worth noticing that you can practice
imagining by yourself, but you can’t practice
building rapport by yourself. So how do you practice it? Suppose you’re at dinner
with a bunch of friends, and one says to you, “Hey, how was that
two-week vacation of yours?” Here’s what you do not say. You don’t say, “Oh, excuse me,
I’ll need a few minutes. I have to write it all down
and then memorize it.” No! Nobody says that. What do you do? Well, you pull up
your memories of the vacation. You re-member, you re-embody them, and then you start to talk. And maybe you say,
“Oh, so we went to Baja.” And then maybe consciously,
maybe unconsciously, you notice that one of your friends
has a puzzled look. That’s not the response you want.
So you try to fix it. “Oh, the Baja Peninsula,
it’s part of Mexico.” And if your friend smiles now,
then you’ve done two things: First, you’ve gotten
the response that you want, and second, if you tell
that same story again later, you’ll likely include
that same fix in the first place. So that if you keep telling
a story to people, eventually, every part of that story
is something that has worked. So the whole story becomes
a sequence of successful interactions. And in the process, you’ve been practicing
getting the response you want, but you’ve also been practicing mending any breaks
in the cycle of rapport. Something else about rapport. To get deep rapport, you need to be open. If you try to hide something important,
maybe an emotion you’re having, your listeners are likely,
consciously or not, to sense that, to stop responding to you
quite so readily, to unsync with you. So, the price you pay for deep rapport is always some degree of vulnerability. And what you get in exchange
for that trusting of your listeners is some of what we
most deeply desire from each other: meaningful connection. So, the third strategy
for building connection is building rapport. And I’ve already told you
some ways that you can do that. At first you can respond
to your listeners’ responses. It makes you kind of like a bicycle rider, continually adjusting your steering
in order to stay on course. And you can shape a story, build a story, by letting your listeners’
responses help shape it. And to do that, you may need
“helping listeners,” people who agree to listen
to a story-in-progress as a favor to you. And you can be open. Open to yourself, open to your listeners, open to whatever feelings
the story brings up in you. All those decades ago,
on that rainy Tuesday, I had no idea I was treating
those teens like co-creators. I had no idea I was engaging them
in image mode to make them more open. I had no idea I was helping
to build a cycle of rapport. And I certainly had no idea that I was engaging
in a mode of communication – storytelling – that has all three of those
connection-building strategies built into it. But I did notice the results. I noticed those first drops of connection seeping through the cracks in the concrete walls
of those teens’ resistance: At first, their loosening, then their eyes
forgetting for the moment to glare, focused instead on their own
images of leaving home. And then months later, working in teams,
with open postures, all of us smiling. And those drops of connection gave me the courage to keep at it
for the additional months it would take, until we could swim, together, in flowing streams of connection. (Applause)

About James Carlton

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30 thoughts on “What Can Storytelling Teach Us About Creating Connection? | Doug Lipman | TEDxWilmingtonSalon

  1. The perfect embodiment of what Doug talks about. He doesn't only "talk the talk", he also "walks the walk"! Good job!

  2. What a great TED talk Doug! My first thought was to be reminded why I love being a storyteller — it's all about the connections, the rapport building, the imagery, the message. Thank you Doug.

  3. Thank you for sharing your gifts of coaching and storytelling!  Your talk was exactly what I needed to hear.  I am going into 3 schools and working with 3 very different groups of students on telling stories. I have placed a note on my mirror to remind me to
     be open, empathetic and trust the story.

  4. I love the story of your introduction to the power of storytelling, especially how you highlighted the ah ha! moment of seeing the students on Jack's side, on your side and how that was the beginning of creating connection with your students. Thank you for a very inspiring talk.

  5. I've known the connections made by storytelling.  Now I know more about why and how to increase the possibilities of connections.  Thank you, Doug.

  6. Wonderful! I found myself nodding my head in agreement with seeing the connection through story. I am encouraged and ready to share! Thank you Doug!

  7. What a great talk on the power of story telling to help us make meaningful connections with others!  And what I love about this talk is that Doug shares 3 simple but powerful strategies we all can use in developing and telling our own stories to ensure that connection is made.  I think this is a "must view" for anyone doing any kind of public speaking.

  8. Incredible talk!! The reality of the value of stories delivered in such a humble manner is impactful to any listener! We all have stories, and wouldn't it be nice if we could utilize the secrets of delivery in a manner that would make each of our stories significant! It's amazing how you saw/felt the connection immediately. Every teacher/speaker should see this presentation!

  9. Of all the coaches I have ever worked with, Doug Lipman is at the top of the heap. A great teacher who is passionate about the role of storytelling in all aspects of life.

  10. Excellent! Wish I had this a month ago when I was teaching my students how to tell stories. Adding it to my resources for next year.

  11. Wow! This is such an important principle, connecting through storytelling. The rapport, risking a little trust that is reciprocated and returned, reciprocated and returned, growing and knitting stronger bonds… Wow! Powerful stuff! A great Ted talk! Thanks, Doug!

  12. Thank you, great tips and demo of how to communicate them to the audience in a short space of time. Your imagery and mode of delivery made the info. easy to remember.

  13. I like to think of being with people as "making space" for them. This talk is a perfect example of making space while speaking. It leaves room for understanding and being understood and is a true respresentation of co-creation. Thank you, Doug, for sharing it with us.

  14. Making Connections!
    I wonderful TALK with very helpful insights into using storytelling to create connections. Not ONLY spot-on comments, but demonstrated in the very presentation! Anyone wanting to improve their speaking, teaching or presentation skills should watch this presentation. One thing, near the end, instead of standing there and stating: "here are the three things"; Dong shares them right along in the story! This is a chance to see a master storyteller at work!

  15. This is so important for everyone to know. I've learned so much from you, Doug. It's been so interesting to learn how we build relationships by connecting at a story level.

  16. Meaningful Connections! This is the essence of life. I have bookmarked this talk and will re-listen to the insights Doug shares about the power of storytelling. Mutual respect and acceptance are gained through this process. Shine on, Doug!

  17. Thank you, Doug. What a great talk. I loved how you convey how you felt. I felt very much in the moment with you. For example, when you're pushed into the room of teenagers to take the place of the assistant principal. I like how you moved from the story to the teaching us about how to create connection with 'the story did it.' Great talk. Congratulations. (And I've never thought about feelings in the gut being images, kinesthetic images – wow!)

  18. I love this talk, Doug. You artfully told a story about your first momentous story, gripped with conflict from the 70 angry teens crammed in the room. There is something magical about seeing someone go into image mode. I'm always working on getting better at that. I hope this video will stack up millions of views so many more people can experience your wisdom. Namaste, brother.

  19. Doug's talk is so right on. I need to hear and hear again the importance of how to make connections with others, not only in my storytelling life, but in my everyday life. "Focus less on saying the right thing and more on stimulating your listeners to imagine." Yes! "Respond to the responses of your listeners." Yes! "Allow yourself to be vulnerable." Yes! Thank you Doug. Anyone who is interested in nurturing connections with others will benefit from this fine TexX talk.

  20. Doug teaches us also in form of a circled story. A wonderful storyteller he brings us with him then let’s us experience his three points again as a story. I feel humbled that I was one of his listeners, as he prepared this Ted talk telling to many one by one, listening to reaction, again and again and shaping it. Such pleasures listen again.

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