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February 2018 Facilitation of a workshop on storytelling in Pune/India

Sell, J. (2017): Storytelling for Intercultural Understanding and Intercultural Sensitivity Development in: (Chlopczyk, J. (ed.) Beyond Storytelling. Springer Gabler.
Sell, J. (2017): Segel hoch und auf zu neuen Ufern - Eine Reise durch die Welt der Storytelling-Methoden im unterkulturellen Kontext in: Schach, A. (ed.) Storytelling. Geschichten in Text, Bild und Film, Springer Gabler

The facilitation of my workshop on storytelling at the international SIETAR India conference in Pune was a jump into cold water. Not every day I have the honor to present in front of such a diverse audience that additionally is as much interested in storytelling as my fellows from our beyond storytelling network and me. Storytelling is a real buzzword in India and whoever I talked to, was eager to share numerous stories as a foundation for building mutual understanding at the cognitive as well as at the emotional level.

As for my workshop, I decided to divide it into two parts. The first one offered some input on storytelling and neuroscience in order to answer the question WHY storytelling is so impactful in the intercultural communication. The second one was designed as a learning journey based on the hero’s journey. Thanks to an inspiring story my dear colleague Mithun Mridha shared with me in the evening before the workshop I was able to explain the hero’s journey with two sets of stories – one from the Western world (in that case Harry Potter) and one from the Hindu Mythology (the Myth of Ganesha). Tuning with the audience was like experiencing a magic moment.

In the narrative approach, the most important change an intercultural expert can initiate in participants is to move stories from the source of knowledge and wisdom towards the source of inspiration and creativity, and that is exactly what happened. We worked with a learning journey and set the sails in the ordinary world with a short intervention. The call for all of us as intercultural specialists got visualized when we worked with the zoom, re-zoom technics (based on the illustrations by Istvan Banyai) and led us to the insight that our major aim is to balance the culturally based expectations and generalizations (zooming-out) and the single stories (zooming-in). Story sharing, in that case, means the reconciliation of differences and acknowledgment that “the whole is more than the sum of its parts” (Aristotle). It was fantastic to experience the atmosphere in the room, especially as the journey proceeded and we addressed the theme of leadership in a powerful narrative exercise. It became clear that everybody has got a set of skills to be a leader and that even though such set might vary from culture to culture, it is a treasure we can reflect upon and enrich with new insights while communicating across cultures. Storytelling takes us from the world of obviousness to the unknown universe that wants to be discovered. And so the next step was crossing the threshold and exchanging the biggest challenges we face as intercultural trainers, coaches, academic teachers, and consultants. My favorite part of the learning journey was the moment when the participants talked about elixirs they are taking from the conference home. The elixirs that will help them to face some of their challenges. The use of stories to build common ground and community and, last but not least, the positive energy gained during the exchange with fellow interculturalists were some of the rewards. With story sharing, we definitely can contribute to the shaping of flexible mindsets. In the intercultural field, we also can work on leveraging storytelling to the next level – story sharing, which is when stories become sources of inspiration and creativity. Humans have remained in the world of cognitive understanding for way too long. We have almost forgotten that rational understanding is just the first step to enhance cross-cultural communication. The next important leap is to tune with the counterpart from another culture and that can be done only at the emotional level, with the engagement of empathy and positive emotions. “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”. (Aristotle)

For further reading on storytelling check my publications, please

You are very welcome to visit my blog text “Why Storytelling in the Intercultural Communication?”

My special present for you: a short e-book on storytelling in the intercultural communication is available here

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