In what areas does storytelling work?

Many persons associate stories with disciplines such as literature, creative writing, fine arts and history. They are, however, omnipotent and can be found in business, law, medicine, psychology, education, media sciences and sociology. Storytelling has been a buzzword in marketing, public relations and advertising for the last decade. Currently, stories are central to self-reflection and personal growth and as such are an important part of the narrative coaching.

When we perceive

"Culture as a set of stories"

(Jerome Bruner), we will immediately see that the narrative approach plays an important role in adressing and re-narrating cultural influences, culture based working and leading styles as well as thinking patterns. My personal concern is to popularize the narrative approach in the intercultural field, as leading, working and learning across cultures works best through story sharing. I use the terms storytelling, story sharing, story listening and re-narrating because the narrative approach covers much more than just using the storytelling method.

Why storytelling in the intercultural programs?

Because it allows discovering cultural roots from multiple perspectives

Because it offers insights into complexity of multicultural identities

Because it suppports zooming in and out and perspective change

Because it adds the emotional layer to the cognitive level

Because it serves as means of transmiting cultures

Because it deals with new stories of belonging

Because it initiates change processes

Because it moves hearts>

"Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives—the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change—truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts."

Salman Rushdie

Stories frame events and information in a way that creates shared meaning, understanding & exchange of emotions between people

Who are the narrative intercultural programs for?

1. For team leaders who lead multicultural, virtual teams and their team members.

With storytelling methods and story sharing on cultural influences you can:

• enhance creativity and engagement among your team members,

• adress important changes and communicate challenges,

• find your own talents and reflect on how you wish to lead your diverse team,

• reflect on the best practicies, regarding the virtual teamwork across cultures (the narrative approach in designing an agenda, storytelling methods for better intercultural cooperation, story sharing for enhanced mutual understanding of challenges and chances in different locations worldwide).

2. For intercultural trainers and coaches

No matter if you have been working as an intercultural trainer or coach for a while or you have just set your sails. All of us sit in the same boat and widening our repertoire of tools and methods we use to enhance the learning process is an enrichment for our clients, students and ourselves. Focusing too much on facts and data can be perceived as boring and confusing, as your participants engage intellect only. As soon as the facts are embedded in the stories, though, you can observe the shift in their attitude. They will be triggered and curious.

Adressing the emotional as well as cultural intelligence and offering possibilities to practice perspective change, out of box thinking and communicating skills across borders is a great power of the narrative approach. Nevertheless, I would like to encourage you to introduce re-narrating and exchange on the dangers of a single story in your intercultural programs, because...

"Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all."


What are your take aways?

In these turbulent times, we act, above all as change agents, who bring hope, act to reduce fears and promote courageous thinking. As an intercultural facilitator, trainer or coach you can encourage your participants/clients to develop a flexible mindset. Above all, in the leadership programs, relocation trainings and coachings and facilitated multicultural, virtual team meetings you can rich it by:

• asking empowering questions,

• emphasizing curiosity and incorporating “surprising moments”,

• out of box thinking by thought provoking story sharing and

• daring to experiment.

Stories can transform from the sources of knowledge to sources of wisdom, inspiration and creativity and therefore will empower your clients to lead skillfully across cultures, enhance teamwork in the multicultural settings and go smoothly and more consciously through the relocation process.

Come to explore new possibilities on how you can design your intercultural programs, by incorporating:

• learnings journeys,

• techniques to tell and share stories, such as in media res, the mountain, etc.

• creative methods,

• visual storytelling

• interactive storytelling and co-creating stories,

• the hero's journey

• re-narration and best scenario of the future practices

If you got curious, I would like to invite you to read more on power of Storytelling in the intercultural communication in the following books:

• Sell, J. (2017): Storytelling for Intercultural Understanding and Intercultural Sensitivity Development, in: Chlopczyk, J. Beyond Storytelling, Springer Verlag (Text in English)

• Sell, J. (2017): Segel hoch und auf zu neuen Ufern. Eine Reise durch die Welt der Storytelling Methoden im interkulturellen Kontext, in: Schach, A. Storytelling. Geschichten in Text, Bild und Film, Springer Verlag (Text in German)

• For more details on storytelling methods, check my article published in SIETAR Europa Journal 2015 SE_Journal_Sept-Nov_2015 (in English)

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