Elizabeth Gates Q and A
It’s always a very special treat when someone I respect — in this case a past Q&A subject — nominates a practitioner to participate in this series. Lisa Rosetti nominated her writing coach Elizabeth (Lizzie) Gates. “Lizzie is a very accomplished writer and my writing coach,” Lisa wrote, “and she is very knowledgeable around organizational storytelling. This field is gaining a lot of interest in UK; for example, there’s an upcoming seminar in April at Northampton Business School around storytelling in organizations led by Yiannis Gabriel.” I’m thrilled to publish this interview with Elizabeth. The Q&A will run over the next several days.
Bio: Elizabeth has a BA. Honours in English Language and Literature and an MA in Linguistics. She has worked in Belgium, Germany, and the UK, training adult learners in English-language skills, creative writing and English for special purposes. Since 1985, she has been a practising journalist, writing for national and regional newspapers and magazines on health and well-being. She is also an experienced ghostwriter. In 2005, Elizabeth trained as a personal and executive coach with the prestigious coach training school, Coaching Development. And since then she has developed Lonely Furrow Company — a client-centred practice specialising in writing coaching and communication coaching and using writing interventions, transactional analysis, neuro-linguistic programming, and accelerated learning techniques such as story-telling to achieve highly-successful outcomes. Her Out of the Box interactive workshops are already recognised nationally as a powerful way of developing creative communication, leadership and writing skills. She is committed to a rolling programme of continuous professional development and supervision
Q&A with Elizabeth Gates:
Q: How did you initially become involved with story/storytelling/ narrative? What attracted you to this field? What do you love about it?
A: I was brought up by storytellers. Telling stories was how we related to each other, entertained each other, informed each other, re-affirmed each other. I love storytelling because what my family of storytellers did for me, I can do for others.
Q: One of your areas of specialization is storytelling and writing for well-being. How did you get involved in that area? Did you have personal experience with having your well-being improved through writing/storytelling?
A: Story-telling and writing for well-being have chosen me, and I have built on what they have given me. I started to write as I learned to read stories. And I have written all my life. But at times of crisis — when in such severe trauma I doubt my heart will hold out — writing is a form of restorative meditation. And — although I can tell stories to move to tears — I also tell stories to entertain and develop relationships. Although at times, I cannot avoid the former, I prefer the latter.
Q: You offer workshops in memoir-writing and journaling. Undoubtedly many reasons exist for journaling and writing one’s memoir. What do you feel is the most compelling reason? Why do people need your workshops assist them in these endeavors?
A: One of the most compelling reasons for writing your own story is “witness” — even if the writing never sees the light of day. But — when shared in a supportive, empathic group (such as I create in my workshops) — the writing brings all the human emotion contained in the writing to the outside and allows the writer to reflect on it and feel in control once more. To do this, with an audience, is to be empowered, to lose all sense of merely being a passive recipient of the experience. This endows the writer with a self-esteem and confidence, which he or she may never have felt before.Q: One of your specialty areas is communication and storytelling in organizations. When organizations (and the people in them) seek out your services, why are the typical communication issues they face — and how can storytelling help?
A: Teams (like families) are quite often dysfunctional because their members have ceased to communicate with each other. Story sessions encourage people to listen, to be curious about what is going to happen, to sift their own experiences for answers to common problems and to share. Stories also generate empathy and laughter. And living — for however brief a time — in a functional “metaphor” is a “habit” that can be carried forward into everyday working life.Q: What has surprised you most in your work with story?
A: The eagerness to engage that people display when listening to stories and telling their own — even if this is a new experience for them.Q: The storytelling movement seems to be growing explosively. Why now? What is it about this moment in human history and culture that makes storytelling so resonant with so many people right now?
A: Storytelling is becoming popular now because, as people increasingly understand, “hardware” is not enough. They like human interaction — loving or loathing others. But, as people find opportunities to interact are programmed out of their lives, they will make efforts to re-introduce them. And story is a way to do this.Q: What’s your favorite story about a transformation that came about through a story or storytelling act?
A: A young girl was raped. Years of therapy hadn’t helped her forget and live life as she wished. Then a wise counselor asked her to tell her story — as a story, as if it had happened to someone else. She did. She felt witnessed. She felt empowered. She has displayed such talent and passion for storytelling and writing, she is now a full-time novelist. Telling stories has changed more lives than medical interventions.
Q: If you could share just one piece of advice or wisdom about story/storytelling/ narrative with readers, what would it be?
A: Listen with attention, reflect in depth and share.
Q: What question do you wish I had asked you but didn’t?
A: What did Einstein mean when he advised parents if they want their children to be wise, encourage them to read fairy tales?