Digital storytelling is a powerful and proven way to build social connection whilst maintaining social distancing.
Why is connection important?
- Social connection is at the heart of well-being. If people aren’t connected they are more at risk of mental and physical health decline.
- Social distancing can compound social isolation and loneliness.
- The more connected we are, the more resilient we are to uncertainty and stress.
- When people are connected , they are more likely to collaborate and come together to create solutions to shared problems.
- Stories shared via video / audio can elicit oxytocin (the trust and bonding hormone!). Oxytocin is a change agent. It makes people empathise and connect. Which in turn improves all of the above.
- Storytelling is simultaneously the most ancient and modern form of communication. You can use it to navigate this period of change and build connection despite distancing.
How to use storytelling to create connection:
1. Ask your community to share stories on universal themes. Use Story Starters that cultivate shared values and positive emotions. E.g ‘Describe a time in your life where you overcame adversity’, ‘What is one of your happiest moments?’, ‘What experiences in your life have brought you the most hope in humanity?’. You can also ask your community to reflect directly on the coronavirus pandemic using these Story Starters.
What have been the most challenging changes to your life since the Covid-19 outbreak?
What have been some positive, unintended outcomes of Covid-19 isolation and change of lifestyle?
Describe an awkward or surprising moment you’ve had whilst trying to adjust to the changes?
What is the funniest Covid-19 meme you have seen lately?
What memorable online or brief face to face interactions have you had lately?
What is giving you hope right now?
What do you want the future to look like after Covid-19?
2. Create safe and vulnerable environments online for your community to listen to and share stories. Organise a zoom call with your team or beneficiaries. Create a storytelling channel on your slack page (or whatever platform you use to communicate). Ask everyone to submit a video story. Get creative !
3. Analyse the stories by transcribing them and use a key word finder (like TagCrowd) to uncover common patterns and insights. Show your community you’re listening and share the insights back to them.
4. Share narratives of hope. Hope is contagious and can be carried through you as a storyteller. Leaders that have high 'narrative intelligence' know that leading with stories is what engages and connects people toward a common goal.
Sophie Weldon is Founder of Humankind Enterprises, a Strategic Storytelling Specialist and an advocate for belonging.