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Why is storytelling so important in the workplace?

We are hardwired for stories and for this reason they are powerful. They help us to understand, to empathise and to persuade. They allow us to be known as people - in the workplace this means we become more than a title or role. When co-workers know us, we feel they accept our whole selves. It creates community and creates fertile soil for trust.

Stories generate an emotional response and the status quo has for years seen emotion as something to be left behind when we head to work. So embedding storytelling at work is a challenge. It is a culture and it cannot be outsourced to an offsite activity trip at the end of each year. There are ways we can actively weave storytelling into the fabric of working life by creating the space for openness and vulnerability. (see: "How can we encourage storytelling in the workplace?”)

Finally, storytelling is important because it is the best way to share knowledge. People's personal and professional lives are awash with joy and frustration. And it is only by bringing those realities to the surface and creating a dialogue with them that we are able to recognise or address the issues and learn from them. In a personal context, it could be a colleague with a seriously ill family member; if it can be discussed, they may well learn they are not alone in that scenario and the team can now find a way to support that. In a professional context, it could be that a particular staff member has gone out of their way to support a team they were not part of.

So, stories are important because they help us:

  • Build trust
  • Find empathy
  • See patterns
  • Act differently
  • Create understanding
  • Foster support
  • Change mindsets
  • Discover information

The more you know about another person’s journey, the less possible it is to distrust or dislike that person. Want to know how to build relational trust? Learn more about each other. Learn it through simple questions that can be tucked into the doing of work, creating workplaces that not only employ people but honor the soul in the process.

Parker Palmer

Do you have a story about work that you would like to share?

Whispers at Work is a place to share anonymous stories about life at work: the joyful, the painful and the ridiculous. We tell these stories to remind ourselves of why things must change, and the adventure that lies the other side of it.

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  1. John Featherby

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