Johnnie Moore

Story circles and unhurried creativity

Sometimes reducing comments and explanations opens greater creativity
Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

finding connection and creativity by explaining less

Transcript of this video:

So for the past few months I’ve been running a process called a Story Circle which I picked up from my friend Gary Hirsch who picked it up himself from our mutual friend, Kat Koppett.

In a story circle, which I run online, you get a group of five or ten people together and we share stories for an hour. We set a theme at the beginning of the hour. It’s not announced in an advance. And you just ask people to share a story that that theme inspires for you.

There’s no big judgement about what isn’t is or isn’t allowed. If you think your story relates to the theme, then share it. But there’s a couple of features of Story Circle that seem to raise the level of the engagement rather magically.

And it’s simply that we ask people to share a story but not to tell us the moral of the story, not to in other words, labour the meaning of the story. Just share the experience.

And we also ask people not to comment on other people’s stories not to say they’re good or, oh, that’s interesting. And that provoked this story with me. To miss out a lot of the normal conversational linking that we do in ordinary conversations.

The effect of this is really interesting. It seems to create a much more inspiring encounter between people. And I’ve noticed now having done it a few times that as soon as anyone slightly breaks those rules says, oh no that was very interesting what you said and it reminded me or goes into, well, the thing about the theme is… and start to sort of editorialize about what the theme is.

They talk about the theme and it and it detracts from the magic.

Because as Kat put it to me when I talked to her recently, what we’re encouraging in this story circle format is the sharing of experience rather than advice.

And when you consider how much of our everyday conversation and how much social media is being done to make a point to persuade us of something, to advance a cause or an argument.

And you realize we get an awful lot of that in our everyday life, everyday lives. And I’m sure it has its uses. But in this story circle where we take it away we actually create a much more exciting human connection.

I think that that is giving us something that we all all of us, I think want more of. And it reminds me a bit of an experiment I might have described in another of these videos done years ago by Donald Winnicott, the child psychologist, who spent a lot of time observing mothers interacting with their toddlers.

He described how a mother was watching her child playing with a spatula wooden spatula. And he said, if in response to the child eating it and banging it and waving around and playing with it the mother says, you see, this is a spatula and mummy uses it to do cooking.

If the mother starts to explain he says, the child would have one of sort of two reactions. It might meekly sort of play along or it might throw a wobbly, have a temper tantrum. And he said the tantrum’s a much healthier response. The child resists having the meaning of the spatula made. It’s more exciting and more creative for the child to figure out for itself what spatula might be. The child will see more possibilities.

I think that speaks to a different less hurried form of creativity that I think a thing like a story circle can evoke. When we don’t rush to explain the meaning of a story we actually leave open many more possibilities not just for the listeners but for ourself.

Somebody related an experience of using a similar process where a participant came up to him in advance, said, oh I want to share this important story from my life but I really do want to say what the moral is because it connects to my religious faith. And the host basically discouraged the storyteller from adding that bit at the end and somehow persuaded him reluctantly to share just the story and not the religious significance of it.

And later the participant came up to the host and said, oh, you know that was really interesting because I’ve decided now that perhaps my story means something else.

I love that when we slow down enough and we take away the rush to make meaning we actually allow for something else to be possible.

Photo by 30daysreplay on Unsplash

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