Storylistening to shape and share new possibilities

If you’ve watched a TED Talk, you know the power of storytelling to motivate others to care and take meaningful action. (If you’ve never seen a TED Talk, treat yourself to the 10 Best TED Talks on Storytelling.)

But we can also storylisten others into empathetic action.

As a mediator and coach, I listen in ways that help others share their stories—their beliefs, opinions, conclusions—often about why someone said or did something harmful to them.

I ask questions, reflect emotions, paraphrase to clarify understanding, and sometimes share my hunches about the meaning I detect beneath their spoken words; the metaphoric truth beneath their facts. 

I help them expand their narrative to include information, feelings, and perspectives beyond the narrow limits of their conflict story. The emerging story helps them move from fixed ideas to their deeper intentions. We attend to the logical linkage of ideas, and attune with the emotional content of their language.

For example, I work with two groups within King County that describe their work cultures with different metaphors. One sees itself as “trauma-informed,” the other as a “prison.” By listening for the meaning of their metaphors—the advantages and dangers inherent in each—we gain insight into their unique dilemmas. We listen, question, and explore what else might be possible. This listening process of co-creating new narratives—new ways of hearing oneself within the context of others— leads to insights and actions that help the groups improve trust, respect, and results.

I first used this story-listening process with creative writers discovering their voices, and now use it with employees, managers, executives, and other mediators to help them storylisten their way to better results. Here’s an article for more information about the process: http://www.mediate.com/articles/NathanD2.cfm

How do you use storylistening in your workplace?

If this story approach intrigues you, check out these classes offered through the King County Training and Development Institute for King County Employees and our Community Partners (if you’re not a KC employee, that means you!):

Stories That Engage: Shaping Workplace Culture One Story At A Time

Reclaiming Your Purpose and Passion: Aligning Who You Are With What You Do

Stories that Lead

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