Developing Empathy Through Storytelling

Joe Gilliver - 3 mins

What's it for: galvanising teams and developing empathy.

Who's it for: teams looking to connect.

Creating Empathy Through Storytelling Building empathy between a team, getting them to connect and trust each other, isn't always an easy task. Especially when it’s a new team. It requires the group to open up and display they are willing to talk to each other, be honest and open. What does help in this situation is when they have a common goal and shared empathy towards a purpose, which in the case of a project last year was empathy towards patients suffering with Neurological diseases. As the team was relatively new we needed to bring them together and inspire them in the extraordinary work they were doing for their patients.

Not Just Words On a Page How did we do this? We created a day of storytelling. Some may think stories are just words on a page. But we know they are much more, they have a soul, a voice that resonates with people. We created a day where the team shared their individual stories, reflected on what the stories of their patients might look like, and ultimately looked at the impact they are going to have on their patients lives. And what better way to set the scene than to have the poet LionHeart narrate the day throughout, introducing sections of the agenda and bringing the team’s purpose and stories to life.

The day started with the team sharing their personal stories through a simple picture exercise, bringing them together and developing empathy within the group as they learnt the similarities and differences between them all. An area they all had in common was their passion for helping their patients. As the team was relatively new, this exercise immediately galvanised the group by getting them to talk from the heart to each other. Later conversations revealed that the participants felt this was a very valuable exercise as it helped demonstrate individuals’ reasons for doing what they do, how they got to where they are, struggles they may have had, etc. It built honesty and transparency between the group.

Looking Through a Different Lens The teams then set to work on telling their patients’ stories. Using a storyboard template, some pictures and a simple age/name profile they put themselves in the shoes of numerous patients, looking at what a typical day might look for someone living with migraine, alzheimer's or MS. Throughout this activity it was clear that the team didn't lack empathy, which became apparent when they presented back their patient stories, displaying fervor and care for wanting to get these patients treatment without delay.

The Takeaway What were the outcomes of this day? The team came away knowing not only who each of them were as individuals, but who they were as a team and why their purpose and story were so important to their patients. Most importantly, they came away with a sense of pride in the work they are doing, that they are fighting for those with neurological diseases and that no patient should have to wait longer than necessary to live life without treatment.