How and Why Great Leaders use Storytelling to Drive Empathy Among the Teams?

Empathy GoFounder

We have listened to many stories as children. Some of the stories left impressions and were passed down to teach life lessons. Storytelling has existed from thousands of years with many stories where we share them as a collective society. 

In fact, stories bring people together, make strong bonds emotionally, and connect them to their realities via these common stories. The use of stories also has an impressive impact in the business world where it increases workplace empathy, strengthens leadership and an excellent team-building strategy to inspire and impact.

Storytelling helps to build empathy:

Sharing a story can  be as simple as sharing an anecdote or a just relating a life incident, but it has a profound impact in leaving an impression on the people that you share it with. In an organization too, leaders can create an ease of communication by using the right way to share a story and connect with their team.

Being in a responsible position leaders can drive productivity and loyalty by sharing inspiring stories that can leave a lasting impression on people. Many stories are shared with the objective to bring about a change in perspective or bring about a deeper and clearer understanding of a matter. When shared well, story telling can be a strong tool to drive empathy amongst employees towards a common goal.

Storytelling builds empathy in teams as well:

Sharing a story with the team with the objective to initiate a thought process or to enhance team spirit has been existent since long. Sharing a life experience with a team can be a great way to establish a connect with all as it gives the team the chance to understand their leader in better way and respond in a positive way.

Many thought-leadership speakers start their speeches with a story to establish the foundation of the context that they would be speaking about. It gives a chance to the speaker to connect with his listeners and grasp their attention. In a similar way for an organization leader storytelling can help you to get the attention of the team and impart important information by means of an easy communication.

Why empathy matters?

Why empathy matters? Why an empathetic team is an essential factor in an organization? It will be fantastic to get to know that the leader supports you and understands you.

The team can be more resilient, more robust, and more apt to succeed if a culture is built on listening, empathy and completeness. If you are empathetic with your team, boss, co-workers, and colleagues, it will allow you to have more influence and reliability over your team.

With a team that connects well and understands their leader well every target becomes a common goal with everyone striving towards the same objective without getting drawn to individual tasks that don’t contribute effectively towards the goal.

Storytelling, empathy and teams

Empathy helps you with physiological safety and creativity. When your team members know that their leader and colleagues are willing to listen and feel their ideas and conversations, you enter a safe place. So, encourage storytelling in order to express their feelings and emotions so that others can understand them and examine their beliefs and emotions about how they fall under the same situations of others. If any person hears a story, they get new perspectives, understand the world around them, and expand their approach to solve their problems. 

How empathy is built through storytelling:

If you are telling stories or seeking stories in order to improve understanding, great stories which build empathy share some key aspects:

1. They won’t change people with unnecessary facts and figures:

A scientist, Susan Weinschenk, has described on her blog about what happens to the brain if anyone hears a story versus a bunch of facts and figures. 

For example, if you are listening to me about a presentation on the global economy. Here, I’m not telling any story but will give you facts and figures. As you are listening, we can see that your auditory cortex is active and Wernicke’s brain area where words have processed if you are reading a newspaper on the same topic then again Wernicke’s area and your visual cortex. 

 When someone tells a story complete with characters and emotional situations, the listener puts themselves into someone’s shoes and experiences where storyteller says reciting facts.

 Here a question for you, if I start telling a story like there is a family in South America which affected by changes in the global economy. It’s a story about a father who goes to work in a foreign country to earn money for the family where a mother drives 100 kilometres for health care. Now, what’s running in your mind? Again, Wernicke’s area is active and also the same visual cortices. If I start telling more in-depth about how the family felt when their young son died before he could get medical treatment, empathy will be active here. 

2. Uses sensory data and images:

Weinschenk also mentions that additional brain activity closely connected to the sensory details. Weinschenk believes that if a story has components like movement, your motor cortex lights up. It’s how works similarly with a smell. 

If I say a story of sharp smell of the pine forest in the Andes where this exact family lives, your sensory areas of the brain will be active even though you smell the forest. A story that includes realistic imagery and sensory details helps to drive audience attention and draw them into your experience. 

3. Usage of jokes and metaphors:

There is no need for an epic hero’s journeys to build empathy. Stories can still create a shared understanding. You can also include jokes, anecdotes, archetypes and metaphors to storytelling into your work and conversations. 

To wrap it up:

What are you waiting for? Just go ahead and be a storyteller. Be the person who encourages others to share their stories. See how connections are made. Embark on this new way to build trust and creativity & discover how success follows you.

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