Donald David: Tell me a story

“Tell me a story about when you were young.”

If you’ve ever asked this question (or been asked), then you know the confused look that can follow. The question is way too general. Unless you have a catalog of stories already in your head, the mind goes blank. No memories are triggered. The secret is to use the right prompt to trigger memories.

Family storytelling is being lost as we sit at the table with our smart phones and in the living room with our televisions. We sit together, but we do not connect. Our personal stories connect us. For the youngest generation, family stories give a sense of belonging and identity: “This is where I come from.” Yet, the skill of telling stories is fading, and it is up to us to revive it in our families.

Getting stories from elders

If you are going to a family gathering and wish to hear the stories of you elders, don’t ask the general question: “Tell me about when you were young.”

Instead, use specific prompts that will trigger memories. Donald Davis, a master storyteller, says that memories are tied to people, places, and happenings.

Here are some examples from Donald Davis’ book of prompts. Use prompts like these at your next family gathering.

People: “Tell us about the oldest person you knew growing up as a child.”

Places: “Give us a tour of the house you grew up in.”

Happenings: “Can you remember a time when you got lost?”

Donald Davis on why we tell our story

Listen to his inspiring words on how storytelling transforms the teller.

Dr. Joel Ying, MD

Physician, Educator, Storyteller. He hosts this website for "Living the Present Moment" as a conscious journey of Body, Mind & Spirit. Holistic and integrative, his practice includes Tai Chi and Yoga, Craniosacral Therapy, Healing From the Core, Meditation. Always exploring his edges, he shares them in the blog, newsletter, courses, and online study group.

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