7 good reasons to tell stories at work

Sharing stories at work is for everyone, doing any work.

Sharing stories at work is for everyone, doing any work.

And in life. This is for everyone and it’s not about becoming a storyteller. Let that idea aside, focus on who and what you are, and practice sharing stories.

#1 It will improve your communication skills. Telling stories face to face is very different than handling out stories in written format or any other medium. Try this: select a very short story you find suitable to tell in a working environment, learn it by heart, find the opportunity and tell it to others. By the middle of the second phrase, you’ll realize the challenge; maybe even before you open your mouth. It will feel awkward, but instead of curling back into your shell, promising yourself never to try this again, think: what feels awkward? why?

Note your observations and try to find ways to meet those challenges. If you do, you’ll be improving, strengthening and growing your communication skills.

#2 It will improve your ability to share concepts and creative ideas with clarity. One of my clients, ordered a storytelling workshop for her entire company with this idea in mind: she wanted to help employees share ideas and concepts within the agency. She realized that from the moment an idea in conceived – and it can arrive from anywhere in the agency, not only from the creative department – it will have to roll again and again among staff members about 60 times until it reaches maturity. Many good ideas don’t make it just because people don’t have enough skill to communicate their ideas with clarity.

Telling stories can help with this necessary skill because it makes you aware of the needs of the people in front of you. Stories come interesting to start with, and they can teach you how to craft an idea to be interesting for the listener.

#3 It will make you more visible to others, and others more visible to you. As human beings, not show-offs. When people actually meet at eye level, and sharing stories is about eye level, they become curious about each other; they also become more humble and understand everybody’s real size. That settles things down and supports more truthful and authentic communications among people. Unless you have a big bluff to hide – this is a desirable outcome.

#4 It will improve your ability to share a vision. One of the most powerful facets of telling stories orally, is the fact it makes people visualize. Ever noticed what happens when you listen to a storyteller? you visualize. Those are your visuals, and they are the most trust worthy visuals you can get because you made them. Managing to share a vision isn’t about placing the visuals in front of the audience. It’s about managing to make them see the vision the way they can see it and connect to it. That’s why the idea ‘visual storytelling’ is completely out of place. It’s more like messaging in visual format than sharing a vision.

#5 It will help you connect with people who can help you and people you can help. When someone shares a story, people take notice. Often, they come later to share a story of their own, because you’ve elicited a sense of communion within them and they feel they want to share back; they feel they have something to offer and give you or ask you for. Call it networking if you want, but from a very different angle than sharing the common details about what you do, where you work, etc.

#6 It will help you collect little fragments and stories about people’s dreams, desires, hopes, needs. When people come to you – listen. Being able to move people to come your way is flattering – but that’s about you. If you want to offer them something they need – get rid of the ‘veil of euphoria’ as fast as possible and listen with intention.

#7 Once in a while, it will help you spot out an important potential connection. When we tell stories, we collect all kinds of information about others. The same thing happens when we listen to stories. If you tell stories at work or in life at various occasions, you will notice that once in a while, not very often, some bits of information will attract your attention more than other bits. It can be the way a person listens, her choice of story, a glint in the eye that makes you think, “just a minute, this is interesting”. Go check it out, you might be looking at your next partner, vendor, employee, employer, stake holder, advisor, whatever.

This post was published also on LinkedIn.

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7 thoughts on “7 good reasons to tell stories at work

  1. Limor, this list is great. It looks at storytelling in organizations from a totally different angle than I usually read. Usually it is business reasons, yet there are real personal as well as career enhancing reasons to do so as well. Thanks. I’m introducing my next class to these and your Agora.

    Madelyn

    • Hi Madelyn,

      Well, you got me there – concerning the angle :-) Your class students are most welcome – thank you.

  2. I love the idea of stories being about meeting at eye-level, and understanding everybody’s real size. I was in Hong Kong on May 1st and convened a story circle for participants from last year’s Storytelling Conference, and while I was by far the most experienced storyteller, once the others began sharing, we were all one within the circle – even the teacher whose Mother Tongue is Cantonese, held us rapt as she animatedly shared her telling of the Importance of Salt. It’s particularly important to remember in a corporate setting, where hierarchy is continually being made visible (who sits where, who has access to which toilet) when people share stories these artificial stratifications/divisions are made redundant.

    • Hi Roger, welcome. Thank you for illuminating few of the expressions of hierarchal physical behavior in organizations. They are so foreign to storytelling.

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