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The Power of Storytelling in Conciliations

Updated: Apr 4

Storytelling is a powerful tool that I have used to transform a conflict conversation. Humans have been telling stories for as long as we have been able to communicate. It is an art that can be very useful in conflict conversations. It is my role to assist parties to a conflict to tell their story so that they can achieve the following goals:

1. Emotional Connection:

Stories make us feel the full range of emotions: joy, nostalgia, amusement, sadness, anger, fear, and empathy. When we hear a compelling story, our brains release oxytocin, often called the "love hormone," which helps to create a sense of connection and empathy with the characters or the situation. Emotional connections can override logical arguments and once people feel emotionally invested in a story, they are more likely to be persuaded by its message.

2. Memorable:

Stories are easier to remember than facts and figures. By embedding your message within a narrative, you increase the chances that it will be remembered and retold. This makes storytelling an excellent tool for spreading ideas and messages.

3. Simplicity and Clarity:

Stories simplify complex ideas. They take abstract concepts and make them concrete by illustrating them through characters, actions, and consequences. Using stories can assist parties to understand each other in the midst of a negotiation or mediation.

4. Relatability:

Stories can build resonance. When people can see themselves in the story, they are more likely to see the relevance of the message to their own lives, making them more open to persuasion. This relatability builds trust and rapport between the storyteller and the audience.

5. Engaging Attention:

A good story captivates attention and keeps listeners focussed on the key message. It bring parties back to the table in mediations and conciliations where they have lost focus and interest in what they other side has to say.

6. Demonstrating Values and Beliefs:

Stories are powerful tools for illustrating values and beliefs. They allow you to show, rather than tell, what you stand for. When you share a story that aligns with the values of your audience, you create a sense of shared identity. This can be a potent force in persuasion, as people are more likely to be persuaded by those they perceive to be like themselves. Many disputes involve a clash of values and stories can be used to uncover this in a gentle way.

7. Inspiring Action:

A well-crafted story can create a sense of urgency, hope, or excitement that moves people to take the desired action. This is the best we can hope for at the end of a long conciliation or mediation.

Storytelling is a timeless form of communication that build connection, understanding and relatability between people in conversation. If you are in the midst of a conciliation or mediation and feel as though your message is not quite connecting with the other side, consider how you might tell a story to break the impasse.

"Story, as it turns out, was crucial to our evolution -- more so than opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs let us hang on; story told us what to hang on to.” - Lisa Cron, Wired for Story

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