Improve Your Interpersonal Skills with StorytellingLaura Thorburn, M.S., CCC-SLP
Many of us tell stories every day. We recount the weekend’s events, describe a childhood memory, or explain to a friend why we hold a certain belief. That’s something humans have been doing for a long, long time. Across all cultures, storytelling is interwoven in the human experience. In fact, it’s been suggested that storytelling developed not long after language did.
However, not everyone feels comfortable and confident with this interpersonal skill. In our digital age, storytelling is slowly being replaced by social media and the quick tweet or post. But while storytelling is an active and engaging process, social media is isolating. It can create a sense of competition and “measuring up.”
Storytelling helps you build connections with people and enjoy more success at work.
Overuse of social media can also affect people’s communication skills. In 2013, the BBC published research that revealed “underdeveloped communication skills” as a direct result of more professionals relying on social media. NBC News referred to it as the “big chill,” with the BBC noting an increasing number of people lacking the ability to interact and collaborate with others.
Storytelling is an art form that’s worth preserving. It helps you build connections with people, make new friends, and enjoy more success at work. Read on to learn how–and what you can do to get better at this age-old skill.
What is storytelling, and what impact does it have?
Storytelling can be defined as the ability to use words and actions to reveal images and elements of a story while encouraging the listener’s imagination. Stories can be told for a variety of reasons: to entertain, influence, educate, inform, warn, or persuade the listener.
Storytelling is a powerful skill. Stories can surprise us. They can make us think and consider new information from a different perspective.
Hearing or seeing something in a story is often easier to remember than reading dry facts and figures. There’s a reason many of us prefer watching a movie to attending a lecture! Using stories to transport the listener to another time, or verbally paint a picture, can inspire listeners to take action, persuade them to follow a cause, and engage them on a deeper level. Stories that contain information about the speaker create strong bonds and allow us to better understand each other.
Why do storytelling skills matter?
Anyone can benefit from having strong storytelling skills. From a social standpoint, these skills can help you build friendships. When you share parts of your life and situations you’ve faced, your communication partner learns more about you. They may have dealt with similar situations, and they’ll feel more comfortable with you. That leads to a deeper connection. People who are good at storytelling are also able to speak with a greater variety of people and develop a more well-rounded view of the world.
How do interpersonal and communication skills help at work?
Storytelling is a valuable interpersonal skill in the workplace. People do business with people they know, like, and trust. When speakers share their authentic self through stories, clients, colleagues, and customers can relate to them, and an emotional connection is created. Research shows that a good story can even release oxytocin, a hormone that plays a role in social bonding. It increases a sense of trust and kindness. These elements can contribute to job promotion–along with new friends!
Good communicators can cultivate a team-oriented culture, hire better employees, and connect with their customers.
It’s well documented that employers consistently rank communication and interpersonal skills as some of the most important skills they look for in new hires. Similarly, 85% of professional success comes from your personality and your negotiation, leadership, and communication skills. If these reasons aren’t important enough, consider that telling stories can be just plain fun!
Speech therapy can help you improve your interpersonal skills
Many people are convinced that they’re not storytellers. They worry that they’re too shy, that they lack confidence, or that they don’t have enough experience. But all human beings are storytellers, and working with a speech-language pathologist can help you strengthen these important communication skills. If you’d like to improve your work performance–or simply your social life–an experienced speech therapist can help you build your confidence and ability to tell a compelling story. In speech therapy sessions, you’ll focus on skills such as breath support, pacing of speech, and visualization. Speech therapy can help you improve your voice projection and your ability to formulate a clear, engaging story.
Each of us has a unique perspective on the world. Sharing your experiences with others can improve your overall well being–as well as making you more marketable in your career. If this is something you’d like to get better at, contact a qualified speech-language pathologist to discuss your goals and how therapy can help.