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The Storytelling Coach: How to Listen, Praise, and Bring Out People's Best by Doug Lipman. Little Rock, AR: August House, 1995. ISBN 0-87484-434-1 $20.95 250 pp.
Doug Lipman is a storyteller, musician, and storytelling coach. His book The Storytelling Coach: How to Listen, Praise, and Bring Out People's Best shares the principles of his unique coaching technique, a technique which is based on the needs and goals of the one being coached. Building on methods used in counseling and other fields, Lipman has put together a four part structure which he advocates not only for the coaching of storytelling, but also for use in the classroom, the boardroom, and on stage. In each case, the approach is the same: look to the student (the one being coached).
The four part structure consists of listening, giving appreciations, giving suggestions, and meeting any other goals the teller expresses. Some excellent points are made in the discussion of the structure. For instance, Lipman says that all the appreciations should be given together to allow the teller time to absorb the praise. In this way one can avoid the "but" which too often follows so closely on the heels of praise that the praise is not truly heard.
He is thorough in his description of each part of the structure. After introducing the importance of listening he goes on to describe good listening, how to respond while listening, how not to respond, and what can interfere with good listening. In describing the giving of appreciations he discusses global and specific praise, praising the object, the performer, and the effect, and deals with the question"what if there is nothing to praise?" Suggestions are dealt with similarly, and sample appreciations and suggestions model ways in which coaches can thoughtfully address their students.
Many years of coaching have shown Lipman that there are a number of common obstacles
which keep people from meeting their goals. He addresses four principle kinds and offers strategies for overcoming them. There are numerous examples from actual coaching sessions allowing the reader to experience the structure in action.
Lipman does not preach the exclusive use of his technique, nor does he use it exclusively himself. It is however, he says, a powerful tool that--sometimes--can meet your needs.
Although the book is aimed primarily at storytelling coaching, Lipman says the principles are adaptable for any field, and so he occasionally refers to projects, or presentations. There is a whole chapter devoted to applying the structure across the curriculum in the classroom. In it, as elsewhere, Lipman anticipates the questions and objections raised in the reader's mind and addresses them. Some tellers I have spoken with say they prefer a method which is more direct, while others appreciate the kid-glove approach. Whether you choose to use the structure as he describes it or not, there is no doubt that it provokes thought and generates ideas as we try to help others in their work as tellers, business people, or students.
Second Story Review, Vol 2, No 1 - Mar 1997