8 Secret Habits of Powerful Storytellers

By: Mary Anna Rodabaugh in Business Storytelling
on November 18th, 2021

There is something downright magical when you are hanging on someone else’s every word. Perhaps you are listening to them speak, addressing the audience with such finesse and personality that you feel as if you are the only one in the room. Or maybe you are reading their words in an article or manuscript, yearning for the next paragraph and excited for what comes next. Powerful storytellers are captivating. They tap into our hearts and minds, thread a fine needle of untouched common ground, and draw you into a narrative you never knew you needed until now.

That same power is within you. Sure, some powerful storytellers are born. We can all pinpoint that one peer in class who could command a room with a single story. But all storytellers are made. They are shaped by life experiences. It is up to you to decide if you are going to share your storytelling gifts with the world. If you’re on the fence, maybe consider these eight habits of powerful storytellers and determine if you are “guilty” of some of these habits as well.

1. Powerful Storytellers Are Reflective

Powerful storytellers are like human mirrors. They reflect parts of you that you may or may not want to see but can almost always identify. Storytellers play on commonalities. While their story is unique to them and nonfictional in most cases, a powerful storyteller is going to seek connection and kinship as the story is told.

“Powerful storytellers dig deep within themselves to excavate the not so pretty parts that make them human. They take those gritty parts and mold them into something beautiful through the power of vulnerability.”

2. Powerful Storytellers Embrace Vulnerability

Vulnerability is not a buzzword. It is a real, raw, and true expression. Powerful storytellers dig deep within themselves to excavate the not so pretty parts that make them human. They take those gritty parts and mold them into something beautiful through the power of vulnerability. Much like fostering connections with all who are exposed to the story, storytellers also rely on vulnerability to transform your perception of the narrative in ways you did not imagine.

3. Powerful Storytellers are Powerful Listeners

The art of storytelling may seem like it is fully comprised of telling, talking, or writing. The truth is listening is equally important. Storytellers are like sponges, traversing the world and absorbing interactions and events. These stimuli serve as fodder for the detailed portion of storytelling. By listening to others, powerful storytellers open themselves up for the potential to receive gifts of wisdom from others. The gifts of wisdom may appear as a simple anecdote a storyteller can use when introducing a longer story.

4. Powerful Storytellers Practice Structure

Anyone can tell a story, but those peaks and valleys of conflict and resolution are essential ingredients for a compelling narrative. Powerful storytellers structure stories accordingly. There is a solid beginning, usually some backstory or something active to plunk listeners and readers into the journey. Then, the dilemma appears, a problem that needs to be solved. The storyteller weaves a tumultuous tale, gradually taking listeners and readers to the climax and denouement. The ending is satisfying, thought-provoking, and maybe even a bit shocking. Powerful storytellers fall upon this structure again and again.

Become a Powerful Storyteller! 

5. Powerful Storytellers Aim to Transform

Some stories are told for the sake of entertainment, but most stories are told to teach a lesson, inspire a movement, or trigger a new thought process within the mind. Our ancestors told stories to share family legends and pass down history to future generations. Storytellers want to make you feel something, but truthfully, powerful storytellers make you want to act even more.

6. Powerful Storytellers Keep Track of Inspiration

Everything can make for a great story. Powerful storytellers keep journals, voice memos, phone notes, scribbles on napkins from restaurants, and countless brain dump word processing documents. The gentle smile from a stranger can give way to the character for a new book. Telling the waiter you were given the wrong dish may be a great example for setting boundaries and speaking up for yourself. Write it down or record it. Anything is possible.

7. Powerful Storytellers Practice Storytelling

Storytelling is a craft. Like an apprentice in a workshop, a novice storyteller practices the skills over and over to perfect the art of storytelling. Oral stories may be practiced in front of a mirror. Written stories go through a series of drafts and fine-tuning through editing.

8. Powerful Storytellers Lift Up Others

Powerful storytellers understand their influence. With this influence, storytellers take their responsibility to other storytellers seriously. They mention storytellers in a positive light in their own stories if applicable. They support storytellers’ efforts on social media. They lift up others.