I believe if you are asking someone to tell you their story you automatically take on a duty of care to ensure you do all you can to DO NO HARM.
As a digital storytelling workshop facilitator, narrative therapist and video producer I approach my work with curiosity. Curiosity in what this person sitting next to me wants to say, how they want to say it and with whom they want t share it with. I’m equally interested in how they can articulate and share their stories in a afe and purposeful way.
This often means exploring their initial idea of what their story is and delving deeper through reflective narrative practice. That’s where the real gold can often be found. Seek and you shall find! I am the seeker, they are the teller.
Is your story getting in the way of someone else’s authentic story experience?
It is a combination of both individual circumstances and cultural norms that provide a long list of assumptions on which our own stories are based. These assumptions influence how we help others find and tell their own story.
Tips to check your story isn’t getting in the way:
- Respect (at the top of the list and underpinning everything that follows)
- Know your own story and assumptions
- Check your voice (Parent? Adult? Child?)
- Keep checking in with the storyteller (Can be as simple as “How is this going for you?”)
- Celebrate when a storyteller says “no” (it means they mean it when they say “yes”!)
- What are your filters? (potential audience/ramifications)
- Do no harm (eg. support systems)
- Beware of the well-intentioned gate keeper and their assumptions (and are you one of them?!).
When I visualise a storyteller I see them out front with a megaphone in hand. I see a story seeker as someone walking alongside the storyteller. To me, being a storyteller carries a sense of ownership of the story, which I am never comfortable with (unless it is truly MY story).
My message is not that seeking a story is better than telling one.
My message is to know the difference.
When I am in a story seeker role (even when producing the story), I gauge my success by asking the storyteller “Does this story feel like you? Are you proud of your story?” If we produce a sleek high-end short film that is entertaining or beautiful to watch but it feels like it’s MY story not the storyteller’s then I have not done what I set out to achieve.
One of the best compliments I’ve ever been given as a story seeker is any a person seeking asylum in Australia during a very challenging and rewarding digital storytelling project. In our final session together while watching the final draft of his digital story, with tears rolling down his face he said, “Everything you see and hear in that story is my heart.”
For this man whose fate continues to lie in the hands of others, the power of being heard is profound. If I were ‘telling’ his story, I would have done it differently. For one thing, I would have added more anger and demanded more action (but that’s MY story!).
Sometimes you have to get out of your own way to find the authentic story in front of you.
If you’d like to learn more about becoming a story seeker in your workplace or community check out these training options.
I also facilitate a small number of Premium Digital Storytelling Workshop/Screening Programs each year for organisations looking for an innovative community engagement program.
Jennifer Thompson | firstname.lastname@example.org | 0422 690 827