How the Power of Observation Can Help You Understand the Power of Words
2 Easy Steps to Help You Deliver a Story That Enthrals Your Audience is a story I wrote some time ago. Tap the title to read the original story and lesson.
I’ve adapted it for today’s story and lesson:
How the Power of Observation Can Help You Understand the Power of Words A Case Study:
I was at a Masterclass at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, where the Actor Mark Strong shared his experience of his industry and his WorkLife before hosting a Q and A.
One of the questions Mark was asked was how he gets into a character – to understand the essence of their being. He replied that it’s in the writing. He went on to say that he gets everything he needs from the words. He spoke in particular about his role as Eddie in the play A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller.
It was a very simple yet powerful answer because words are fundamental in our WorkLives and the medium through which we communicate who we are and what we stand for.
Just as Mark used the words written to understand who Eddie is, the people we interact with come to understand our beliefs, values and dreams through the words we use to communicate. Because as people, it’s what we can make with words – ideas, images, hopes, theories, fears, plans, understanding, expectations, a past and a future, culture, ways of seeing …. the list is endless, and the power is simply powerful.
WorkLife Book Wisdom
In Three Uses Of The Knife, David Mamet says: “It’s in our nature to dramatise. At least once a day we reinterpret the weather — an essentially impersonal phenomenon — into an expression of our current view of the universe: Great. It’s raining. Just when I’m blue. Isn’t that just like life?”
“Or we say: “I can’t remember when it was this cold, in order to forge a bond with our contemporaries. Or we say: When I was a lad the winters were longer, in order to avail ourselves of one of the delights of ageing”.
“The weather is impersonal, and we both understand it and exploit it as dramatic, i.e. having a plot, in order to understand its meaning for the hero, which is to say for ourselves.”
Whenever we communicate, there is much at stake, perhaps even more so in our working environment. When you’re preparing for your next interview or networking event, presentation or keynote speech, to help your process, consider the following simple technique actors in training develop to hone their skills in understanding the words that will allow them to deliver them with the greatest impact:
Technique #Step1. Actors are encouraged to read play after play after play because script analysis is the nuts and bolts in the literal fleshing out to bring characters to life. Every line of dialogue, every movement, every action and reaction gives an understanding of a character’s motivations and objectives, emotions and desires. This allows the actor to step in and become the character.
2 Easy Steps to Help You Deliver a Story That Enthrals Your Audience demonstrates how you can apply Technique #Step1 to self direct your WorkLife learning.
Interestingly writers are often recommended to take an acting course to follow this same process because, particularly in the early stages of developing a concept, they need to get to know their characters inside and out. Learning to live in a character’s skin, the same way actors do, sharpens their innate ability to substitute and imagine emotionally truthful stories.
There may come a time when you think of taking an acting class to develop your understanding of character and voice — technically, to develop a great speaking voice and also to develop your unique character voice that will motivate, inspire and impact those listening to you.
In the meantime, 2 Easy Steps to Help You Deliver a Story That Enthrals Your Audience demonstrates how you can apply Technique #Step2 to self direct your WorkLife learning to develop your unique character voice to help to tell your story in a more enthralling way to draw their audience in.
Today I want to demonstrate another lesson.
A Lesson in the power of observation to make sense of the world by gaining an understanding of your character and the world you exist in, and how it connects to your WorkLife. And to the WorkLife of others to build meaningful relationships. Just as Mamet demonstrated, we do with an everyday phenomenon, that is, the weather.
How the Power of Observation Can Help You Understand the Power of Words
It is important to help you Communicate Your Big Picture and Grassroots Story.
Let’s begin by considering how Mark Strong gained an understanding of his character Eddie and the world he existed in from this analysis by Sparknotes for A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller:
“A View from the Bridge is a play largely concerned with discovery. As Alfieri warns, no one can ever know what will be discovered. There are two secrets in the play: Eddie’s incestuous desires for his niece and the two illegal immigrants hiding in the Carbone home, Marco and Rodolpho. The gradual exposition of these secrets destroys Eddie, as he is incapable of dealing with either discovery. An inarticulate man, Eddie is unable to realise, speak or understand his own feelings for Catherine and cannot forgive himself for exposing Marco and Rodolpho. Eddie’s feelings toward Catherine manifest themselves into fierce protectiveness and eventual rage at Rodolpho. Because of his inability to deal with his feelings, Eddie instinctively reveals his second secret — Marco and Rodolpho — which completes his undoing”.
Now let’s consider how you can adapt the process of your WorkLife observations to your story — the concept, idea, and message you want to communicate — by following these:
4 Powerful Steps to Help You Communicate Your Big Picture and Grassroots Story
Step 1. Begin by understanding the bigger picture in the same way Strong did. In writing the story, Miller used his prowess in communicating the great conflict between community and American law. The words he used gave Strong a deep-rooted understanding of the world his character Eddie existed in, the challenges and problems, and the changes that needed to take place if he were to be able to move beyond these.
You will need the same understanding of the world/industry/organisation/team/partnership you operate in.
Step 2. In writing, Miller took time to get to know people at grassroots level, to understand their hopes, dreams, fears and challenges.
You need to stand in the shoes of your audience to understand your world from different perspectives.
To help you achieve these first two steps take time to understand what’s happening both inside and outside of your industry and sector. Tap into stories that help you recognise successful trends, practices, and behaviours that could make a difference to your world. This will help you to communicate your Big Picture Story.
Draw on your learnings from the observations you make as you go about your daily WorkLife — conversing, listening, watching and reading. This will help you develop your message to communicate your understanding of what others are feeling and thinking and to show respect for others’ points of view. In turn, this will help you to communicate your Grassroots Story.
Step 3. Having an understanding of both the big and small picture (the world you operate in and the individuals within that world) provides the backdrop to your story (the concept, idea, and message you want to communicate), as well as an understanding of the fundamental words you need to use that have the power to arouse every emotion, and how to deliver them with the greatest impact that demands a call to action.
Step 4. To develop your story from here, begin by asking yourself the questions:
From the knowledge I’ve gathered, what makes a good story?
What makes a good drama?
Take time to reflect through self-feedback. This will give you insight into the words you can use to shape and tell your story in a way that is powerful.
When you have crafted your story, speak the words out loud. You can do this to an audience of no one. The purpose of this exercise is to hear how the words sound when spoken aloud.
Begin slowly at first, and then on fast forward. As with the actors, the same principles apply:
This exercise will help identify words and parts of your story that could potentially trip you up. It will help you to recognise what needs more or less emphasis. It will help you to consider how pacing and pausing could help tell your story in a more interesting way to draw your audience in.
Words of Wisdom
“I love all insider memoirs. It doesn’t matter whether it’s truck-drivers or doctors. I think everyone likes to go backstage, find out what people think and what they talk about and what specialised job they have.” David Mamet
Continuous Learning Assignment
Words have the power to change the world. Through your words, you have the power to change the world of those around you.
Think of the words you can use to do that.
Write them down.
Then: JUST SAY THEM.
Words of Wisdom
Become a collector of stories. Other people’s and your own. This will help you find, develop and tell the right story at the right time in all WorkLife situations.
These are the words of wisdom I shared in 2 Easy Steps to Help You Deliver a Story That Enthrals Your Audience.
I hope the new story and lesson I’ve shared with you today reinforce the importance of this practice in enabling you to adapt your stories to add to your repertoire.
WorkLife Book Wisdom Stories:
The intention of the stories I share is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories, you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles, failures and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride.
My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife Story.
I believe stories are a powerful mechanism for teaching, a powerful medium to learn through, and a powerful way to communicate who you are and what you stand for.
The Continuing Story …
The WorkLife Book Wisdom stories led me to write WorkLife Book Club, which takes you on a journey through the streets of Shoreditch, East London, as the members share culinary experiences, while discussing WorkLife struggles and successes through the wisdom found in the books they read.
Tap the book image to see a preview of what’s inside and to purchase from Amazon. The book is also available to purchase from your favourite book shop.
School of WorkLife helps you self-direct your WorkLife learning through resources that have been created to help you to take ownership of your learning in your own space and in your own time.
What is Self Directed Learning?
Self-Directed Learning is when an individual is motivated to take the initiative and responsibility on decisions related to their own learning. It is a series of independent actions and judgements free from external control and constraint.
Resources to Help You Self-Direct Your Learning
Sparknotes is an excellent resource to help you self direct your WorkLife learning. The company, which was started by Harvard students Sam Yagan, Max Krohn, Chris Coyne, and Eli Bolotin in 1999, originally provided study guides for literature, poetry, history, film, and philosophy. Later on, SparkNotes expanded to provide study guides for a number of other subjects. (Source Wikipedia).
You may find the three books below from The School of WorkLife Book Series helpful in developing and fine-tuning your power of observation as a self directed learner. Tap the book title to see a preview of what’s inside.
All Super Skills in my book.
You can view the complete collection here: The School of WorkLife Book Series.
Carmel O’ Reilly is a learning practitioner and writer. She creates resources to help people self-direct their WorkLife learning. These include a Collection of Books which originated from her first book, Your WorkLife Your Way and a Learn Through Reading Series of Case Studies. which originated from her latest book WorkLife Book Club.
That’s the power of writing (and reading, which is an integral part of the craft for writers). It helps you find, develop and tell the right story at the right time in all WorkLife situations – in day-to-day communication: WorkLife and feedback conversations, presentations, talks, and negotiations, at interviews, and when socialising and networking in building and maintaining good relationships. The practice of writing helps you to tell the stories that express who you are in an interesting and engaging way.