The Secret Agenda of our Story Workshop

As we look back over our ten years of telling stories, the Story Workshop is an ongoing invitation that has only changed in content and format, but our own understanding of what we’re doing there together has changed a great deal. We go into every workshop hoping that what we’re offering will help people translate their lives and their ideas into effective presentations and good work. We are surprised almost every time by just how much potential the workshop has to help us all become better humans. Here’s a post where we reflect on why that matters in our world right now. 

Our storytelling workshop is designed to help people in every kind of work. And we take that “every” seriously. 

Whenever we host a Storytelling workshop, we try to make it clear that everyone is invited.

We do this because we absolutely think the principles we teach there can help everybody in their communication. It’s built on the idea that the work of crafting a personal story can translate into the work of pitching ideas, negotiating in meetings, connecting with crowds, sending emails, and leading people to new places.

We also think the workshop can be a great place for connecting people to each other. We’ve been able to go into companies and organizations and use the workshop as a way for people to get to know each other and to understand the origin stories of the people with whom they spend so much time in their week.

But for those of us who teach the workshop, part of the goodness of the time is watching people draw from the well of their life and experience in order to put something out into the world. It’s seeing people realize that even the weirdest story of their fight on the playground, or the darkest story of their diagnosis, or the victorious story of the day they beat fear, is something the world can use. It’s seeing someone across the table connect to the story and learn from it.

It’s the way they walk out like something has been told. And heard.

The longer I am a person, the more I realize that a large part of being a person is just letting people say things out loud to you and making sure they know those words have been heard and received by someone else.

As much as what we do in the workshop can help people who hold a microphone or lead a Keynote presentation, it’s also about the work that’s done over coffee meetings or happy hours. It’s about the work that happens across cubicle walls and the internal work all of us do to reckon with what it means to be a person in the world and in time.

In a world of disagreements, stories subvert all the reasons we have to avoid listening to each other. Even when someone we think is our enemy is on the other side of the table telling a story, we listen because we have to know how the story ends. 

Storytelling fuels our curiosity about each other—which ends up teaching us about ourselves. Which eventually fills in what we think we’re all doing here together.

Also, you’ll send better emails.