The Rule of Three

By Santi Dewa Ayu, Communication Fellow '17

Think back to your most recent memory of someone instructing you to write on a popsicle stick. It's not everyday, or, come to think of it, any day, other than this day, that I've been instructed to write on a popsicle stick, but more on that later.

Sailing lessons on the Charles River, Matt Weber, HGSE Communications Preceptor, explained, were something that he had successfully completed sometime ago, but just because he had received a certificate to sail, did not mean that he was confident in his sailing abilities. It is through this extended metaphor of a license to sail that we were reminded of the importance of deliberate practice.

Our skills for storytelling and personal narrative, become stronger if we practice, not alone in isolation, but as a group to support each other. The learning opportunities available through the HGSE VOICE Program are designed to help us build these skills as a group by taking as few or as many workshops as we can fit into our busy schedules.

The First Activity:

“What is your personal storytelling style?” Matt asked this question only minutes into the Public Storytelling/Double Take info session in the LaunchPad on the third floor of Gutman.

I stared at the blank, pale yellow, sticky note that had been distributed only seconds earlier. ‘Just write something’, I thought, but it remained bare.

We moved on to discuss professor Marshall Ganz’s framework on public narrative which relayed the importance of the following three components of effective storytelling: challenge, choice, and outcome. It is through these storied moments and the details of these challenges and choices that we reveal our values and can strengthen our connection to others.

The Second Activity:

“Think of the first sentence of your personal story. Close your eyes and raise your hand if you would like to share it with the group,” Matt instructed. ‘Think of something,' I thought to myself, but nothing came.

A voice in the group proclaimed, “We weren’t the most well behaved eighth grade class, but I didn’t think we deserved to go to jail.” I vividly remember this sentence. It connected to the experiential and added a detail that enhanced a need to hear more. Three people spoke. Their one sentence story beginnings were poetic, honest, and brave. I sat there, eyes closed, in awe.

The Third Activity:

“You want people to experience the story with you,” Matt reminded us. He distributed popsicle sticks and told us to, “split the popsicle in half and on one half write what you feel when you express your story and on the other half, write how you want the audience to feel.” I drew a vertical line down the width of the wooden stick. I stared at my pen and then something washed over me, the framework, the brave voices, the opportunities, the support.

In the spirit of deliberate practice, I put my pen to the popsicle stick and finally began to write: passion, agency, and hope.