Storytelling: Healing, Empowering, Enriching

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Storytelling: Healing, Empowering, Enriching

People are afraid of talking or expressing themselves before others. It is one of the top fears among fear of flying (aerophobia), intimacy, darkness, rejection, fear of spiders (arachnophobia), fear of heights (acrophobia), fear of failure, commitment, and fear of death.

Kiriaki Christoforidis finds storytelling, fictional and factual, as a way to overcome fear of expressing oneself not only with an unknown public or a larger audience but also with colleagues and companions, friends and family. She has been identifying the advantages of listening to other people’s stories, and also narrating real and fictional stories to others. She believes as a result of listening to others, the narrator feels empowered. Her experience tells her that ‘it is difficult to hate people to whom you have listened to’.

Kiriaki Christoforidis is a writer, social worker, (oral) storyteller, conducts workshops in public speaking and in team bonding, and a job coach. She made a living as a professional storyteller for more than a decade. Her audience varied from students to a hospice to a company.

As a child, Kiriaki has been a storyteller (not in the sense of writing stories, however, she is currently working a novel) but as a collector of stories (mythical, mythological, fairy tales) and telling them to others. Fortuitously, she met Berättarnät Väst that organizes ‘stories around the fire’ (Berättelser vid elden) in Gothenburg, like it was in old times – an annual event in summer. At Berättelser vid elden, she found a platform for storytelling, and emerged as a professional storyteller. Her audience was diverse. She told stories at different places and times: kindergartens, schools, libraries, cultural centers, living rooms, beaches, staff parties, hospitals, churches, squares, conferences, shops, buses, retirement homes, international events… She toured extensively in Sweden telling stories such as myths and folktales and also conducting workshops on storytelling at Fridhems folkhögskola in Skåne.

“Storytelling is to talk in a way to make the audience see, not hear, but see.” she reflects. “Show the story in sound of words.” During her storytelling sessions, she was also accompanied by musicians such as when she told Odyssey and 1001 Nights.

How to hold the attention of children either to make them to listen to a story or to let them tell a story? “In the beginning I tried to get their attention, tell them, hello, please can you sit down…but they didn’t listen…I began (saying)…Once upon a time…The children are attentive,” says Kiriaki. She has found ways to make the children not only to listen to the story, but also enabled them to tell a story, imagined or real, in the form of a game so that they learned the technique of oral narration.

Kiriaki’s storytelling platform also extended to the workplaces of companies and organizations in order to help the colleagues and workers to bond well, and to know better about one another. She muses, “I see the stories (and storytelling) as walls, roofs and pillars of a culture. They are the ones who are holding the culture together because stories are our history, everyone has a story and everyone likes to hear a story. Stories are holding us together at every level from individuals to couples to societies and the working place.”

“We get energy by telling a story. Many a times (at) the companies it is all about work work work…(they forget) about their stories. Sometimes my job is to go to a working place and help them to find out their stories, real life stories. I do different kinds of workshops, so that the participants can be creative. Stories are in everyone. I collect their stories through the workshops and make them tell their story (by forming a group),” Kiriaki explains.

The storytelling has the power of healing. Kiriaki likes to use her skills in storytelling even when she works as a social worker. Letting the people she meets tell their stories, and listen to them, she helps them feel stronger.

Kiriaki Christophoridis is deep-rooted in Sweden (Göteborgare = Gothenburger) but her roots are in Greece and her interests and curiosities are in the whole world. The central theme of her work emerges from people, communication, culture and creativity. She believes communication is the key for better relations between people and for a better society.

As a professional storyteller, she strives to get the story out of a person or from an organization for knowing one another better: “Everything and everyone has a story.” In her workshops, she picks up thoughts and ideas from the participants in an entertaining and exciting way and then enables them to work together with stories. With the help of small scenes and situations, she identifies the stories and help the listeners and narrators to identify including diversity.

For Kiriaki, storytelling is a means to make communications easier for people, and to make the world a better place: listen, and tell; tell, and listen!