3.6. Personal Storytelling

Storytelling is the ability to captivate someone or a group of people with an engaging narrative that influences them and makes them feel like they were a part of the story. People remember stories much better than facts and figures. It is one of the most important skills you can learn to master.

Key points:

  1. Storytelling influences change at individual practice as well as organisational level
  2. Listening to stories facilitates better person-centred care and can lead to improved services
  3. Hearing personal stories engenders greater understanding, empathy and reflection
  4. Rapport, trust and care can be nurtured in practitioner-service user relationships through storytelling
  5. Personal storytelling benefits the teller as it can empower, encourage personal growth and build resilience

Why is storytelling valuable to the storyteller?

  1. Reframes self-identity and encourages personal development

Evidence suggests that the process of personal storytelling enables the concept of self and the life story to connect in a way that facilitates a reframing of identity and encourages personal growth. On imparting a story, an individual expresses the significant events in their own words and in their own time, and is empowered to reflect. The process enables new awareness and new meanings of the self to emerge. 

  1. Is a relationship that co-produces meaning

The storytelling relationship involves a listening and engagement that is different to that of a performer-audience or interviewer-participant. It is a relationship that bridges the divide between the person and those providing support, eg practitioner-service user.

  1. Promotes resilience

Resilience involves a willingness to turn negative emotions involved in disruptive life events into something strengthening and empowering. Resilience is developed by a process of reflection on meanings, which enables emotional insights. The support of peer and other networks is key to forming bonds and feeling connected to other people. The combination of these factors results in a strength in people, which is based on the premise that life experiences (including negative experiences) offer opportunities for personal growth. 

  1. Is therapeutic

The therapeutic value of telling a story is often reported in storytelling work (Hardy, 2007; Scottish Recovery Network, 2012). While concern for individuals’ well-being in storytelling is often expressed and some tellers have reported a degree of upset in relaying their story, it is recognised that, for the most part, the positives of telling their story far outweigh any emotional distress encountered. It is more often that the act of telling a story and reflecting on it has a cathartic effect and is a catalyst to recovery.

Storytelling techniques

The best storytellers are able to make narrative choices useful to move their stories forward, to involve the target audience through the dissemination of important information, to maintain attention, they know how to refer to their life experiences to give emotion to the text.

You should also be able to intimately get in touch with yourself, to the point that words and emotions become a single entity, capable of arousing awareness and reflections among the interlocutors. 

The latter represent the target, which is a group of potential customers to whom a company wants to sell its products, services or the content itself, and will have to “fall in love” with the idea and the story being told. Storytelling can be adapted for any area that needs to be supported from a communicative point of view: a company, an intellectual or physical product,  a service, a brand, a person or an event.

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