There are Ted.com talks that linger with me and resurface at the most interesting times. Often, I am heard saying, “That reminds me of a Ted Talk about…” or “I listened to a Ted Talk that inspired me to…” The beauty of this online resource is that I or whoever can retrieve the talk at any time. I’m giving a rare Kudos to technology here.
I had such moment last Thursday at my writing mentor’s class. The first day is always the same. Upon arrival there are 15 or so adults scattered amongst seats facing the front of the room. An awkward, muffled silence permeates the air. Eyes shift to the left or right avoiding eye contact with each other as things are shuffled and arranged in an effort to look busy. Enter my writing mentor. She blows through the door like a warm summer wind- vibrant, unapologetic and smiling. She begins, “Hello and welcome. The first thing we need to do is form a circle where everyone can see each other.” She sits in her chair and watches as the circle forms around her, bossing people to move their desks this way or that, ensuring everyone can be seen. After she is satisfied, a brief introduction is shared in which she explains the most important part of being a good writer is learning how to be an excellent listener. She uses this to segue into her famous first day exercise: the class is split in groups of two, each person talks for 5 minutes about their personal journey while the other person remains silent and jots down notes. “This is NOT a conversation!” my writing mentor reminds the class, in a strict motherly tone. “You are LISTENING not asking questions.” When five minutes is over, roles are switched and the talker becomes the listener. After 10 minutes, the group is called back to the circle. Each person will use their notes to introduce their partner to the rest of the class.
I sat there on Thursday night and marveled at the transformation of energy. These strangers who were timid and avoiding eye contact with each other, were all of sudden verbose and excited to share their classmates’ stories. Often introductions began, “My new friend…” and after I returned from our 10 minute bathroom break, the room was lively. People from all different walks of life were talking and laughing with each other. On my walk home, I reflected on what had just transpired and the power of sharing your own individual stories. It only took five minutes for people to open up and connect with each other in a way that reaches far beneath the outer layer of a person. In that reflection this Ted Talk- Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story (click to listen)-came to mind. The talk is 18 minutes long but if you take the time to listen it may linger with you too and pop up in powerful ways that could last a lifetime. I just re-listened to it today and it re-confirmed my resolve to be a storyteller.
Your Story Matters,
A Warrior Princess