Eine Reise durch die Welt der Storytelling Methoden im interkulturellen Kontext
2. Juni 2017
Where is your name? Where is my name?
24. Oktober 2017

Why Storytelling in the intercultural Communication?

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You might be asking why storytelling in the intercultural communication?
Exactly this question marked the beginning of my journey towards the storytelling approach in the intercultural context. When I was setting the sails, I had no idea where it would bring me. I simply knew that my clients in the business world, students at the universities and many people working across cultures desperately wanted to get golden recipes on how to behave in intercultural settings. Does that sound familiar to you?
Following the motto “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, they wanted to hear do’s and don’ts while communicating and cooperating with “inhabitants of Rome”. What stroke me mostly, was the fact, that they were deeply convinced that such “ready made recipes” existed. On one hand side they acknowledged the diversity of their own groups and said: “Well, our group is very diverse in terms of age, gender, professional background and nationality and it is clear that our setting is “colorful”, but we are here to hear about “Rome and the Romans”. I asked myself why that was "so" obvious for them to talk about a mosaic of cultures in their own groups and to ask for do’s and don’ts’ lists for communicating with “the others”.
Everything changed when we exchanged stories. Suddenly, the beauty of diversity became tangible and focus moved towards practicing perspective change, self-reflection regarding communication skills and a clear shift from “autopilot modus” towards curiosity and acceptance of differing thinking patterns.

As an intercultural trainer and coach I got overwhelmed. I experienced my personal change as well. I still gave input on doing business and working in teams in countries of my expertise and I addressed challenges and rewards of virtual leadership, but I incorporated the experience and knowledge of the participants of my programs much more. Why? Because of the narrative approach, which guided me to get to know my participants better way so that I was able to tailor the content to their needs. Additionally, thanks to exchange of stories, they got to know one another from a completely new perspective and were willing to share their experience in an opened manner. The setting of psychological safety and the atmosphere of trust were the most wonderful gifts most of us experienced during time spent together. Discussions about establishing trust and designing a team charta got completely new dynamics.When we talked about the action plans at the end of the programs, the participants were much more committed to risk story sharing in the professional context and to apply some of the storytelling methods in their daily lives, to be sure they understand different points of view and differing thinking and communication patterns. I gathered the list of the reasons, why storytelling works so well in the intercultural context and I am opened to your proposals.

Storytelling is so powerful in the intercultural context because:

  • it allows discovering cultural roots from multiple perspectives
  • it offers insights into complexity of multicultural identities
  • it suppports zooming in and out effects and the perspective change
  • it adds the emotional layer to the cognitive level
  • it serves as means of transmiting cultures
  • it deals with new stories of belonging
  • it initiates change processes
  • it moves hearts
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Sell, J. (2017): Storytelling for Intercultural Understanding and Intercultural Sensitivity Development in: (Chlopczyk, J. (ed.) Beyond Storytelling. Springer Gabler
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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
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