Empowerment examples work wonders when we feel and then take small action steps towards our own dreams. Author Suzanne Skees is a masterful storyteller and a woman who launched a non-profit organization to help end poverty. With her book titled MY JOB, she goes into details on how to empower others around the world.
With her savvy for empowerment leadership, Suzanne Skees shares her secrets and tips on how storytelling and listening to such stories can fundamentally change how we approach our life’s decisions.
How to Empower Others And Yourself With Storytelling
Almost everyone — excepting that one inevitable person in your life who’s a motor-mouth—despises talking about themselves. We feel it’s egotistical, or we simply feel shy. Yet my experience as a storyteller for nonprofit organizations and a social-mission book series has taught me that sharing stories has tremendous power to transform both the teller and the receiver. I think it’s because, besides giving our bodies sexually to one another, storytelling is the most intimate way we have to share who we are. – Suzanne Skees
Why Is Empowering Others Important?
Sharing stories means more than recapping the events of the day, gossiping about others, or pontificating about convictions. Authentic storytelling requires willingness on both sides: for the teller, to be vulnerable; and for the listener, to be receptive.
The teller gains power in self-assurance, gets to know who they are, and maybe even feels safe in being seen. The listener gains power in the connection offered by the teller, discovers new ways to be and see the world, and maybe even feels affirmed by what they have in common.
2 Things You Can Do To Empower Others
Empowering others is a two-way street according to Suzanne Skees who has been doing it for a long time. Empowering comes through telling and listening modes, both to be exercised at the precisely right time and place.
Empowerment in business or in any other life’s venture is a vital ingredient that makes us stronger and better towards ourselves and the others around. Here are the tips of how to empower others and yourself coming from Suzanne Skees herself.
First Thing to Empower Others Is Through TELLING
Empowerment Begins with Safety
Start with one person with whom you feel safe. Tell your trusted person about an even that shaped who you are today, and gauge that person’s reaction. Empathy? Respect? The more you practice with trustworthy listeners, the more confidence you will gain not just in your storytelling but in yourself. If you must speak to groups, you may be surprised to discover that almost everyone in your audience wishes you well and will greet you with warm eyes and open hearts, if you lead with authenticity.
Sensory Details Is the Glue for Empowerment of Others and Yourself
Take the listener with you to the time and place of your story: the sound of the wind in the trees, the sweltering heat soaking your shirt, the aroma of foods your grandma was cooking, the silky down of your baby’s hair. Get vivid. Your story is your chance to take someone along with you to a place they’d never otherwise get to go, so fill in their senses, and that will bring it all back to you, as well.
Connective Tissue Called Human RELATEDNESS
Maybe every human being is as unique as a snowflake, but under the surface, we have much in common. Can you find that? One day while in a remote village in northern India, I was interviewing a woman who’d just received a cow to milk for income. She had no electricity or plumbing in her mud hut, and she was ecstatic about the cow.
But the real story was about her sullen-faced teenaged daughter, whom the translator and I surreptitiously pulled aside while her mother was boiling tea for us. Just like girls in the U.S. (where my readers lived), she wanted freedom — to hang out with her girlfriends, get out of the village and go to college, and live a glamorous life in a big city. The mother-daughter dynamic was relatable, and so was the girl’s determination to have a life very different from her non-literate cow-farmer mom’s.
Purpose to Touch the Soul
Do you know why you’re telling this particular vignette? We always have a purpose, although sometimes it’s unconscious. Are you trying to show yourself as virtuous, being a martyr who’s endured far too much, dissing a neighbor whose lifestyle you cannot condone?
There are hundreds of reasons for telling a story, but I’ve found that the purest, most powerful stories simply take the listener there with you, to your memory, to experience it alongside you. Journalism teaches us to “show, don’t tell,” and it turns out that letting your listener derive their own conclusions will leave far more impact upon them.
Humor to Empowerment!
If you’ve got it, use it. It’ll get your point across and make you unforgettable. Both the Buddha and the Bible have declared humor as the highest form of wisdom.
I once worked with an American photographer in Africa, where we didn’t speak the language but needed to get the story. He used nonverbal humor by jumping around and getting goofy with the kids, and guess what?
He got eye contact, smiles, and lots of personality in those pictures. What I learned from him was that even if I’m not naturally funny, I can poke fun at myself to get a laugh, I can be clumsy and self-deprecating to establish rapport with either my audience or my interviewee.
Second Thing to Empower Others Is Through LISTENING
Open-Mindedness Is Your Way to Empowerment
Set aside your preconceived notions of what the homeless man or stylish woman might be about to tell you. People will always surprise you if you allow them to shatter stereotypes. Even people you think you know very well have layers and tales you had no idea were in there.
Other times, loved ones like my eighty-year-old adopted mom may repeat a story over and over again, but there could be new nuances. And if you probe, more juicy details she’d forgotten until just now.
Non-Comparison is the Key to Empowerment
Until you practice active listening, it can be almost impossible to hear about someone else’s experience without immediately thinking, “Oh yeah, something similar happened to me!” But that distracts you from getting all their details, and it puts a layer of yourself on top of their story.
Try to hear their story as a child would, with the magic of discovering along with the teller where they are taking you with their words.
Getting below the surface takes time. Your teller may need to talk in loops for a while, to warm up or build trust in you. I can’t count the number of times that, as soon as an interview ended, the story got really interesting — maybe because the pressure and recorder were now off.
During the waiting, this is when you might jump in with humor (poke fun only at yourself) or understanding (“I can relate; my sister also had breast cancer”). However, no one can resist a pair of soft eyes focused on them, and an ability to hold silence while they figure out how to put their story into words.
The two most powerful warriors are patience and time. – Leo Tolstoy
Have Your Heard of Side-Tracking?
The best stories I’ve ever heard have gone way off-topic, like when my friend was telling me about her dedication to Catholicism and ended up confiding about her affair with a priest, or when a man I was dating segued from his affinity for cooking to the way his stepfather hit and kicked him as a child.
People want, desperately want, to tell you who they are. If you can refrain from interrupting or reacting, or bringing them back (So, how did you learn to cook?”), they will go down that rabbit hole. Later you can check back and ask, “Is it OK to include that in your article?” or “Is this something you need me to hold in absolute confidence?”
Unless what they’ve told you indicates that they or someone else is in danger, oftentimes just the sharing of the story can be quite therapeutic.
Empathy Makes All Things Possible
Empathy looks nothing like what I used to think it was. It’s not sobbing alongside them. It’s not grabbing and hugging and rescuing. It’s not even problem-solving. It’s staying power: remaining present for the teller, hearing what it’s like to be them, taking their word for it, believing and respecting them.
Perhaps the most radical example of this from my book series came when Chapter 15 narrator Mickey told me, “Even a terrorist, even a suicide bomber, is rational, within their worldview.” His ability to hold steady as an Al Qaeda member shared his story with Mickey, absolutely blew me away. But that’s what makes Mickey a diplomat.
$30 Amazon Gift Card
April 2-16, 2019
Ope to USA & Canada
Author Suzanne Skees would like to sponsor this amazing giveaway to support women out there to spend more time sharing their stories and listening to the stories of others. This is a two-way street to empower each other in a conspicuously beautiful and ever-evolving way.
Would you like to win an amazon gift card and Suzanne Skees book MY JOB?
Summary for the MY JOB Book by Suzanne Skees
OUR WORK, OUR WORLD: In book two of the series My Job: Real People at Work Around the World, Suzanne Skees profiles fifteen professionals in health and recovery, education and finance, agribusiness and processing, tourism and culture, and diplomacy and peace.
Each chapter takes the reader on a virtual voyage to villages, cities, and farms to hear first-person accounts from workers. The book explores the skills and challenges of each occupation, how one lands in a particular job, what causes one to flourish or flounder in it, and how our job shapes our sense of identity.
As Skees discovers, the story of a job quickly becomes the intimate story of a human life, with narrators revealing their childhood traumas and future dreams, deepest fears and hidden passions. Readers just may discover that while the occupations and cultures we work in are different, the deep ways that work impacts our lives are universal.
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