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What makes a great storyteller?

7 attributes that make people want to listen
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There’s never been a more important time to know how to tell a good story. The world is in desperate need of change-makers, action-takers, influencers; people who will inspire us to confront our most pressing challenges head-on.

The most effective way to draw people towards a cause, or to help them learn, is through storytelling. Stories can have a profound effect on people – capturing their attention and stirring their emotions in a way that data or numbers just can’t. But what exactly makes a great storyteller? We’re not talking about someone who can stand up in front of a crowd and deliver a decent presentation; we’re talking about someone who can tell a story that people will listen and respond to – moving them to act or think in a different way. Here are seven traits that great storytellers tend to have in common.

  1. They share a message. A good story normally has a clear anchor; one or more critical messages or learnings that the storyteller wants to convey.
  2. They have a purpose. What is it that compels a great storyteller to share their narrative? More often than not, they’re trying to help those around them – whether by making the world a better place, or by improving the career, family, or wellbeing of their audience members.
  3. They speak with empathy. Not to be confused with sympathy, great storytellers know how to show empathy; to put themselves in the shoes of their audience and, in turn, establish a strong connection.
  4. They’re creative. Great storytellers don’t typically start with a boring introduction; instead, they use some captivating hook, like a funny or sad anecdote, to help people quickly immerse themselves in what they’re trying to share.
  5. They’re trusting and trustworthy. Great storytellers are trusting of themselves and the story they’re delivering. Meanwhile, we trust good storytellers because we feel their credibility and their thoughtfulness. There’s also something about their inherent passion that tells us they’re speaking their truth.
  6. They’re human. Great storytellers aren’t afraid to show us their flaws and they don’t let their ego get in the way of a good story. They manage to be relatable and authentic – vulnerable, too, if need be, in sharing something about themselves that they’d normally keep close to their chest.
  7. They’re inspiring. This doesn’t necessarily mean evoking big reactions in people and driving everyone to floods of tears or laughter. Usually, there’ll be something about a great storyteller that makes us want to be better in some way. We might feel inspired to be a better parent, or to learn more, or to care about a cause. A good storyteller normally leaves us with a powerful call to action.

This is by no means a definitive list of all the characteristics that a great storyteller needs to captivate their audience. If you’re keen for more tips, this TED Talk by leadership consultant Karen Eber has some good ones – plus, she offers insight into how our brain responds when we’re listening to a story. It’s super interesting (and hopefully useful for any leaders/ change-makers/ action-takers out there!).

– The Coach Place Global

Image by Kevin Gonzalez

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