I listen to Dave Ramsey
, the financial guru on the radio. The other day he answered a query from a listener about, "What questions should I ask when looking for and hiring a financial advisor?"
Dave replied that there are really no specific questions one can ask to find the right person. But he did say, "You need to find someone with the heart of a teacher. The role of a financial advisor is to advise. You are the one who should be making your own decisions."
I think this is also sound advice for storytellers looking for a coach.
"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
Like that old saying, a good coach has the heart of a teacher and should find ways to help the teller understand what it is they want to accomplish, so they can make their own decisions regarding their story. A coach, or any other "critic" who says, "I think you should start the story this way" does little to assist the teller in understanding "why". Most often someone who tells you that is really saying, "If I were telling that story, this is how I would do it." But here's the problem, YOU are the one who is telling the story. You are the one who should make the decision, and understand how you came to that decision.
The process of teaching takes much longer than the process of merely "telling" someone what they should do. One might ask, "But isn't it really more expedient to just tell them?" Even if the suggestion is sound, without understanding and integrating the "why" of something, a person (or teller) will only be a reflection of the "advisor" vs. being themselves.
That being said, there are times when it might be helpful to give direct advice. Dave Ramsey always tells callers, "Don't buy whole life insurance. It's a terrible product." But he also usually tells them "why" he believes that. In the same way, a storytelling coach may tell you, "You need to speak louder." This is a practical matter of fact (not a matter of opinion). If they can't hear you, they won't be able to listen to your story.
Years ago, I was being coached by Doug Lipman, The Storytelling Coach. I was struggling with the tale I told. Doug asked me what the story was about. I gave him some glib answer. Rather than telling me what HE thought the story was about or what I should do, he said, "I'm not sure that's not what I heard." That set my mind spinning, but in a good way. For the next six months, I was constantly thinking about my story and trying to figure out (for me) what the story was about. One day it hit me. "Yes, THAT'S it!" Once I had understood and made that decision, the story, and all of its pieces, fell into place.
So when you need help, look for someone who will not just give you an answer. Look for someone who will give you ways that YOU can find YOUR answer. Someone with the heart of a teacher.