Why Personal Stories?

We live within a storytelling culture, constantly we hear stories, ever since we were kids from parents, grandparents, school, books, tv, movies newspapers, internet. These stories can shock us, confuse us, they can move us, they can enlighten us and they connect and define us within our culture and cultures we live within.


Stories are a very human currency and when you think about it we are in fact always telling our own personal stories – at work, with friends, family, people we don’t even know well. We tell stories for many reasons; they communicate something about us – our values, our identity, a story can help build relationship with others and it’s just plain fun to tell a story. Usually the stories we tell are stories that involve us or have some meaning to us – these are the types of stories Playback Theatre invite you to share when you come to a performance or when we work in organisations.


But I am still not answering why Personal Stories – personal experiences – are so important. Here is an anecdote that sheds some light…


We were doing a performance recently at a conference with many different stakeholders. The large group had met quite a number of times previous and there were some tensions and misunderstandings between the various groups. During the Playback Theatre show we heard a number of personal experiences about the work they do.


After the performance, we had the opportunity to speak with audience members and people said things like ‘ I have met X before and this is the first time I have understood what it is like to do that job’. In that statement I heard a barrier of misunderstanding bridged, empathy felt and new perspective gained.


I think all I can say is that is the power of a personal story


Personal stories told can resonate with us as humans like the toll of a bell or a ripple in the water from a stone landing or a leaf falling.

This entry was posted by admin on Thursday, March 12th, 2009 at 23:15 and is filed under Deep Listening. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. allawoora says:

    The personal stories shared in the Playback Public Show on Sunday 29th March really showed wonderful level of trust amongst the audience and the performers.

    The people sharing the stories (the ‘tellers’) delved into painful times i.e. falling pregnant in an abusive relationship at 17, a business man choosing to ditch the comfortable well paid career to pursue acting and creativity, and a young man who recently lost his Dad to a brain tumour and had to come to terms with not having a father and the question of what happens after death.

    It isn’t so often that people get to talk about things – the bigger, deeper things- and have people listen… attentively… without interruption… listen so well they can instantly play back to you in a creative way the essence of what you experienced…

    Having shared stories at Playback shows before – you feel very honoured

    But last night I was in the audience… listening… feeling moved at being able to relate to the stories on an emotional level

    Because even though our experiences differ, the pains and joys and conflicts and sense of achievement that we experience on the inside are of a very similar colour.

    That is how we connect… really connect… and know that no matter what we are connected to others

    We all need to feel that and sometimes we need a hand to tap into and remember how similar we are; how fragile we are; how strong we can be…

    I guess that is where Playback comes in…

  2. Playback Theatre Sydney says:

    Well said and very true, I like what you have said about a couple of things.

    The need for people to connect through listening and seeing stories from people who are not celebrities or people the media choose are worthy to be listened to or written about.

    Someone once said that Playback breaks down barriers of isolation. That when you hear a person tell their story in this forum it’s very hard to be judgmental.

    In this way the Playback forum is a respectful and honest way to engage with other humans.

    The other point you made that I enjoyed is about being listened to-not listened to in order to tell you about me but to just listen fully to your experience. I have to say its a beautiful gift to the teller.
    In fact you have inspired me to write something more about listening in this particular way. I think it is a practice to develop-what do you think?

Leave a Reply