I find myself at a large hospitality group’s General Managers Conference. The group has seen a lot of change over the past tumultuous year and as a result, about 40% of those attending the conference are here for the first time. That’s a significant percentage. The exercise I have facilitated to help people connect and get to know each other is currently in full swing and is working a treat! The exercise? A basic methodology for facilitating what the Hawaiians term, ‘talk story’.
Talk Story, as its name implies, is sitting together and sharing one’s story. In this case the process is helped by the participants drawing a ‘river of life’ depicting their own journey. Magazines, glue, paper, crayons, scissors, ribbon and ‘other stuff’ are all part of the mix. It hasn’t taken long for the staid conference room to be transformed into a kindergarten type mess…along with the expected laughter, banter and general feeling of ‘having fun’.
Soon the delegates will get to share their ‘river’ and the mood will change. I know that as I have done this exercise often enough to know that when it gets to the telling, the mood gets somber. The simple reason is that for most of us, telling our story allows us to share things that we are often reluctant to share, things that don’t usually ‘come up in normal conversation’. Therein is the power of the story and it never ceases to amaze me. I have seen people get to change their perception of others based on ‘listening to their story’. I have seen attitudes soften and change; I have seen previously unlikely connections being made; I have seen understanding develop and I have witnessed both tears and laughter.
Most group start with a, ‘this will only take a few minutes’ mentality only to be surprised by how caught-up they become in their own – as well as other’s story. Every group is different but it is a wonderful way to deepen relationships, build understanding around diversity and difference and – well, do something that gives authenticity to the ‘values’ we usually have placed on the office walls. It is fun, constructive and taps into a root within all of us…the love of story.
You really need to try it sometime…and I’d be happy to assist you for each time I participate in the exercise, I leave with greater clarity about what it is our workspace is meant to be.