Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Time for communication

If you’re looking for stories, chants and rhymes you might tell in the run-up to Christmas, please check back through my previous blogs. Just type the word Christmas into the Storytelling Blog References box on the left of this page. This will provide you with lots of links to previous blogs with Christmas stories. I hope you might find something to suit you. But if you’re interested in spending a moment thinking about some of the qualities that lie at the heart of storytelling, please read on.

DSCN5153Storytelling is all about listening: that’s my belief. Even performance storytelling depends on the listening ear – and I’m not talking about the ears of the audience but about person telling the story listening throughout to the story that is being told and what it’s trying to say through its teller. In storytelling that involves working creatively with other people, be they children or adults, this kind of listening is equally important, albeit in a different way. Here it means listening to people you are working with, paying attention to what is said and then taking that a bit further.

This week, I felt fortunate to experience two different examples of what this kind of listening can mean. One came in a phone call with a storyteller friend who is currently working a lot with elderly people, many suffering from dementia. ‘It’s similar to working with Early Years children,’ she said. ‘You pay attention to what they say, then use your listening and your telling to extend what has been said by pushing it a little bit further.’ Making this kind of connection, she feels, is the juice that enables creative communication to happen. Too many people who work as carers, whether with elderly people or young people, have no idea what this means or how to do it. Storytelling has a lot to offer.

Hedgehog signMy other experience – so rare in its context – came at University College Hospital when I was there for my regular check-up. I’d not previously met the consultant who saw me. When I talked about a problem I’m having with my eyes, probably a consequence of the treatment I received for my nasal lymphoma a few years ago, it became immediately clear that this doctor is a very good communicator. When he asked me what I do , he obviously paid real attention when I said I’m a storyteller and writer. Not only did he make it immediately clear that he understood the impact of eye problems for anyone who does a lot of desk-work. When the consultation was officially concluded and I was preparing to leave, he got to his feet and, with no fuss, picked up on what I’d previously said so that, in a matter of a moments, we were conversing about the importance of communication and how storytelling can help develop this. We ended by sharing a worry about the young children and young people who are growing up barely able to look up from their i-pads and computer screens.

How refreshing this was! I left the hospital feeling elated. It had been a matter of being heard and of having something I’d said being developed – not in any pushy way, for I feel entirely confident that had I not responded, the conversation would not have occurred. That receptive ear, that lively interest, that little nudge that offers to take things a little bit further – the skills are so welcome  when you find them in a doctor. They’re also at the heart of good storytelling and perhaps are especially needed at this time of year when everyone seems to be in a rush and getting wound up and stressed.

Time for some quiet. Time for some listening. It’s what we all need.

My photos this week are of two signs I saw at different times in a Pembrokeshire wood where I often go walking. Both made me chuckle when I saw them. Wonderfully thought-provoking, each is an example of communication that could never have been expected. Both signs gave me something to think about. Both are things I’ve remembered.    

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