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99's On the Go
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Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2016 Brian Remer
Updated April 2016
99's on the 9th
based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.
Being Verbose: When shorter is better
Read this story aloud or make copies for your group or team members.
Katherine Sharpe edits her 400 Words Magazine at www.400words.com. Each essay is written in 400 words or fewer. In December of 2006, Newsweek magazine brought her to my attention by asking, "Can something significant be said in 400 words or less?" Well, can something meaningful be said in exactly 99 words or in a sonnet of fourteen lines? Can a bumper sticker ring true? Is there wisdom in a fortune cookie?
Let's be even more succinct. What about a caress or a kiss?
Meaning comes from the investment of the listener, not the quantity of the verbiage.
You can build upon the theme of this 99-Word Story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discussion within your team or organization.
There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group would like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, consider this analysis.
Much of the responsibility for effective communication belongs to the person receiving the message.
Yes, communication is a two-way street. Books - many and more - have been written about how to speak and listen collaboratively, tell a good story, massage your message, and deliver your ideas effectively. But there is always the great unknown: What will happen inside the head of the person who hears your carefully crafted story? It's the listener who owns your story!
In our current age of constant interruptions, we compete with tweets, snaps, and likes for attention. For some of these micro forms of communication, we definitely should question, as Newsweek did back in 2006, whether anything significant is being said. At the same time we might ask whether we are looking for significant meaning in the communication we do receive. Are we missing opportunities to learn, build relationships, or be more effective?
There is a lot of excitement in business and organizational development about the use of stories for teaching, selling, growing people, and creating organizational culture. One author, Terrance Gargiulo, describes nine functions of stories:
- Empower a speaker
- Create the environment
- Bind and bond individuals
- Require active listening
- Negotiate differences
- Encode information
- Act as tools for thinking
- Can be used as weapons
- Medicine for healing
In his chapter "Storytelling" in The Handbook of Experiential Learning (Mel Silberman, editor, Pfeiffer, 2007) Gargiulo says, "These nine functions [of stories] are essential aspects of leading any learning experience. On the surface, we use stories to warm up a group, entertain them, and / or create an environment. …if we are a little vulnerable, circumspect, or reflective, and if we don't take ourselves too seriously, our intentions will spread through the group and positively affect its behaviors."
Gargiulo's emphasis is on using stories to tap into the inner dialogue of listeners. Stories should be told in such a way that people are invited to share their interpretation and add to the group's understanding. He cautions, "Steer away from using stories to encode information. Stories that encode predigested messages such as allegories offer the weakest form of learning." They miss the opportunity to invite others to weigh in with their ideas.
His preference is to open the room to the stories of everyone. "When people listen actively to one another, they enter the world of another person. Our understanding of another person's story is gained by working with bits and pieces of our own stories to find common connections between the story being shared and our own experiences."
That's an interesting way to use stories: the other person speaks and we receive confirmation that our message was heard. But this falls flat if we take all the airtime. And that's one more reason to keep it short, say it quick, leave space for another person to…
For More Information:
Terrence Gargiulo is author of Stories at Work, The Strategic Use of Stories in Organizational Communication and Learning, and In the Land of Difficult People. www.makingstories.net
Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.
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