How to Use Stories
A story is a powerful communication tool. In a few paragraphs a story can explain complex concepts and convey a great deal of information.
The ideas and details highlighted in a story will often be remembered longer compared with traditional ways of presenting information. Vivid descriptions in a story paint visual images that tie the event and listener together.
The following is a list of ideas of how stories might be used. It was developed through a review of the literature, attendance at workshops and sharing of experiences between colleagues. The premise is that stories are powerful ways to make a point and can be used in a broad variety of situations. This list is intended to help stimulate ideas of how you can use stories in your own public health practice.
Stories can highlight any aspect of program development and implementation. A story will bring the program to a person who has had no day-to-day contact with a program. A story can portray…
typical clients of the targeted audience or program, barriers overcome in the implementation process, the larger environment within which people live and the program operates, details for a descriptive grant a pplication or budget report.
Stories can be used as tools to collect qualitative data. In a few short paragraphs, stories capture the outcomes of an intervention. A story can describe…
the impact of an intervention on people’s lives, what changed as a result of a program, the successes or challenges of a program.
Stories translate numbers and research findings into descriptions of real-life situations. They can be used to develop an image that people can identify with and garner support for a cause. A story can be used at…
legislative hearings, county board presentations, meetings with non-profit interest/advocacy groups, one-on-one briefings with policymakers.
Stories can be used to introduce or describe an unfamiliar topic, or provide “virtual” experiences when not everyone has the opportunity to have an actual experience. They can be used to shape and guide behaviors by offering tangible situations to share and discuss. Stories can showcase expectations and standards. A story can be used…
in client groups, with students, at new employee orientation, to introduce a new approach to a client situation, for consultation, in classroom presentations, one-to-one meeting with clients, as case studies for discussing practice expectations.
Telling a story about an experience in practice can be particularly useful for professionals in all stages of their careers. Promoting the writing or oral sharing of memorable events in practice can inspire powerful insights into what motivates people in their work. A story can help …
people reclaim a sense of ownership and identity in their work, prevent burnout in high stress environments, students reflect on choices made in clinical or internship experiences, form bonds between co-workers.
Building Common Ground
Stories connect people with each other. In telling or listening to a story, people develop an appreciation of each others’ experiences. Stories can help identify common themes and develop solutions where there are diverse experiences and view points. Stories are particularly effective when used in situations with conflict because they reveal emotions and fears associated with the issue at hand. A story can be used…
to ease tension in a meeting, to cull out feelings when emotions need to be addressed before identifying a solution to a problem, to develop multiple solutions to complex situations laden with emotions, as a team-building exercise to foster a sense of purpose, accomplishment and camaraderie.
Stories can be effective in capturing the complexities of organizational structures, the intangibles of organizational culture and the interaction of people throughout an organization. A story can be used to…
highlight the values of an organization, provide a visual image of goals and mission statement, describe the operations of an organization, support changes by developing a story that reflects the hopes and dreams of accomplishing the change, describe the anticipated outcomes of a new business plan, highlight successes, develop team camaraderie, get to know a new manager.