Cultural nuance in storytelling

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Each organizational and national culture is unique; so yes, you do need to be sensitive to them. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Be conscious of the role hierarchy plays. In certain cultures there is a deep hierarchical bent; and if so, unless the ‘story’ comes from a ‘senior’, it may not really have the impact you want. In these cultures, you may need additional skills, etc., and facilitation to get full participation.
  • Gender bias is more prevalent in certain cultures than in others. So, be mindful of WHAT story either gender tells. Or else, this may result in being counterproductive (unless you are actually making a point with it).
  • Be mindful in the use of humor: some cultures are not so forgiving of tongue-in-cheek humor; so, be conscious.
  • The medium of storytelling is also culturally sensitive, especially based on the demographics of the members. As a general rule of thumb, sharing an important story in-person is always best; but, there ARE cultures that actually ‘prefer’ to ‘watch on video’ at ‘their convenience’ rather than being ‘herded into a room’ to listen.

However, there are some universal truths too:

  • People resonate with stories that have relevance to them and their own life.
  • People generally prefer optimistic stories rather than pessimistic ones.
  • People generally like stories that are set not too distant in the past, because otherwise, they tend to be ‘fables’ from a ‘time which is irrelevant’.
  • People generally prefer audiovisual means rather than purely auditory, and people generally like the option to ask questions afterward. (Even if they don’t ask any, they like to know they have the OPTION to do so.)

Culture IS central to almost everything we do. So, be mindful of it when trying out the tools and techniques around storytelling.

This article is part of Luminary Learning Solutions‘ Guru Guide. You can read the full guide here.


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