Practice being adaptable or flexible with your stories. Tell the same story differently to different people. Look at adapting it to the child and how you can use it to engage that individual listener.


If you have ever told the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears you already know something about using the storyteller's voice. When Goldilocks wanders into the home of the Three Bears and says, "I am so hungry," you probably used a high, gentle, childlike voice. When the Three Bears get home and Papa Bear asks, "Who has been eating my porridge?" you may have adopted a deeper, louder, masculine, even growl-like sound. When Mama Bear asks, "Who has been sitting in my chair?" your voice was probably medium-sized, feminine, and maternal. When Baby Bear asks, "Who has been sleeping in my bed?" and then declares, "And she is still there!" your voice is likely to have been high-pitched, squeaky, infant-like, and maybe even excited with the last discovery.

For the storyteller, voice is the main professional tool, the primary mode of communication. Even ifyou are using other aids such as books, puppets, or toys (these will be discussed more in Chap. 3) the voice is still the main instrument to communicate the therapeutic message and, thus, to bring about the therapeutic change.

The use of the following guidelines may help enhance that effectiveness, but, as I mentioned in the "Ten Guidelines for Effective Storytelling," do not get caught up in the techniques. Ifyou are involved in the story, then it is likely that you will be spontaneously using these guidelines in much the same way as you were in telling the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I offer them merely as pointers that may enhance that process.

1. Select Your Style of Storytelling

Let me give some examples of how voice adapts to the style of the story. First, if the content of the story is a cognitive activity such as thinking through a problem, your voice may model the thoughtful, ponderous nature of the story, being slow, considered, and deliberate. If you are telling a story of physical activity such as in running a race, your voice style may include the energy, the breathless-ness, and the activity ofparticipating in the race.

Second, style can be influenced by the emotions the story seeks to communicate, as it does spontaneously—our voice sounds different when we are angry, sad, anxious, excited, or relaxed. Have you had the experience of answering the phone with a simple "Hello" when feeling tired, sad or in grief and had the caller, who knows you reasonably well, respond with a concerned enquiry, "Are you okay?" He or she has heard the emotion in just a single word, heard a story in your affective expression.

Ifyou are telling a child a story that begins with the problem of fear, your speech may be rapid, your breathing shallower, and the tone of your voice higher; but as you model the resources of relaxation, your speech can be slower, your respiration more comfortable, and your tone a little lower. Reaching the desired outcome, your style of speech may parallel the joy of achievement, expressed in a lighter, happier tone of voice.

Third, have you noticed how you speak differently to your lover than to your boss, to one gender than to the other, to a child than to an adult? How you use different voices for the different characters in Goldilocks and the Three Bears? We need to look at how we adapt the style of our storytelling to the story's characters as well as to the listener to whom the tale is addressed. Your style of storytelling may be different if the listener is a 2-year-old or a 12-year-old, a girl or a boy, or someone with different cultural or religious values from your own. The bottom line here is to ensure our voice is appropriate to the context, emotion, characters, outcome, and listener of the story.

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