I’m home. The country where I’ve been born and which I left almost a year ago welcomes me back. Alongside it, there is a queue of those who play an important role in my life - my family, friends, and acquaintances. They are really happy to see me, and after a while, when the emotions settle down a bit, we are ready to sit and talk. “So, tell us about it! - my grandma says, - what do you mean “tell you about what”? Tell us about Germany, of course!”.
And this is the moment when I, a person who is rarely shy and who loves to tell stories to the people feel paralyzed. How do I tell you a story of 10 months? So many things have happened, so many new people, places and experiences happened to me! I lived in an entirely different surrounding for quite a long time - there is a ton of tails I could tell. So, ask me more what exactly do you want to hear, would you?
“Well, everything!” - she says. It doesn’t help at all. I feel interrogated, the only thing which is missing is the lamp directed right into my eyes. Grandma, at the same time, feels offended as if I were hiding something from her or didn’t want to talk. So, storytelling, my old friend, help me out of this!
The first thing I have to do is to choose a thing - it doesn’t really matter if I’m going to tell first about food in Germany or my mid-term seminar in Hamburg, but I can’t tell 10 stories at the same time, so I need to focus. Ideally, I’d choose one that corresponds to the interests of the listeners the most but luckily, my grandma is interested in everything. Or she simply says so, but unless she helps me to find what’s more interesting for her, she has to rely on my choosing.
Then, what I need to do is to form a narrative - my story shouldn’t just be a specter of everything. I should start from something, I should face some challenges, I describe my feelings and actions at that time, and then I have to come to the main point - when the situation has resolved itself. The smoother my story is the better it is going to be perceived by grandma. If she realizes what happened when and I don’t confuse myself too much during the telling, she will feel like she was present there and lived this through with me. If not, she will be lost and a bit bored, even though she really loves her grandson.
My story should be balanced as well. A good story is made of many special details - they can be whatever you can imagine as long as it helps to make your story more “alive”. Description of the places or the dialogues you’ve heard, your emotions or thoughts - they all can make the listener feel like this is something very close and relevant to them. But this can have the opposite effect if your story will be overstuffed with everything you can remember. If I decide to tell my grandma a story that happened to me at the on-arrival seminar, I need to choose only what’s really important for the tale. Otherwise, If I start to tell her the names and personal background of every participant and facilitator there, she will be confused after the 4th person and won’t understand a thing from what I have told her.
Even though my grandma is pleased to hear everything I have to say, I need to conclude my story with something specific and solid. My conclusion should resolve all the situations I have described and should give an answer to why have I decided to tell this very story in the first place. Without it, the whole tale will be incomplete and grandma would feel like she has just listened to something not very important.
And, of course, I should really believe in what I’m about to tell - if I consider the story as boring one, I’ll unlikely make it interesting to the listener. Even if the listener is my grandma. The interesting story will make my eyes burning, it will make me accompany my tale with gestures and guide my brain to find the best words and my voice to pronounce them as the story requires.
Now, all of us tell stories - they help us to explain ourselves to others and to socialize. Storytelling is a skill that can be learned and mastered like any other, and it will help you in many aspects of your life for sure. And young people who may not have that much of professional skills yet can reach more if they know how to tell a good story. For example - it can help you to establish a better dialogue with your grandma because storytelling is intergenerational. But it can also help you to find a job or - who knows?, - the love of your life.
So, the next time you’ll be asked to tell something by your grandma, practice your storytelling skills with her.