Building trust – find and listen to other’s stories

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —August 26, 2006
Filed in Business storytelling

Karen Armstrong has written a piece in the Guardian today encouraging us to consider and accept multiple perspectives regarding the complex strife in the Middle East. She builds her point of view by comparing the multiple and contradictory stories told in religions and the similarly conflicted narratives told by the protagonists in the current struggle. Her ideas equally apply to business on a smaller scale. We are all are trying to make sense of what’s happening and what might happen and to dogmatically adopt a single truth will ensure the clash continues. As Armstrong says:

Human beings are meaning-seeking creatures; we crave narratives that have a beginning and an end – something that we rarely encounter in everyday life. Stories give coherence to the confusion of our experience.

And the screenwriter Robert McKee remind us that with stories, “What happens is fact, not truth. Truth is what we think about what happens.” (p. 25)

Karen Armstrong concludes her piece with a plea that businesses should also heed.

We must, therefore, make a concerted attempt to listen critically to all the stories out there in order to gain a more panoptic vision. This includes our own cultural narrative. Our modernity has liberated many of us, but it has disenfranchised others. Counter-narratives that question the myth of western freedom must also be heard, because they represent a crucial element in the conflicted, tragic whole.

McKee, R. (1997). Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting. New York, ReganBooks.

[via Robert Kall and Working Stories]

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

3 Responses to “Building trust – find and listen to other’s stories”

  1. ken Says:

    Since metaphors get raised in a subsequent post, can we explore some here?
    “Building”: it seems very physical, controlling, making ‘it’ happen, it being a nominalisation (c.f. DIK 🙂 Do you think we can build trust (or teams)? Is trusting a process, rather than a thing?
    My first reaction (gut feeling?) is to embrace a an organic nurturing metaphor, but perhaps it may be even more emergent, greater complexity from interactions (people getting to know each other) than would result from a single builder (manager) controlling the process/flow.
    The foundations of growth would then be invisible (a distributed cognition, web of trust). Clearly scale limits those we can know/trust, and limits growth or needs a contract/firm (visible, and more linear/chain), but I ramble again, so will stop 🙂
    I’m curious, though – is there a story in how you find a story in a UK newspaper? Did you find it through some super cool search (liberating) technology?

  2. Shawn Callahan Says:

    Good point Ken. Would you like to make a suggestion to replace the phrase, ‘building trust?’ Perhaps we could foster trust or nurture trust. I have to come clean here. One of the reasons I used the phrase ‘building trust’ is because I know people have been searching Google using that phrase.
    The story of finding this story is simply being part of the working stories list server. I reference it at the bottom of my post. It a loosely connected network of story practitioners.

  3. ken Says:

    Re. Google, that’s cool, nothing wrong with writing so it can be found 🙂
    Well, for many reasons, what feels right to me is the ages old wisdom of Know-Thyself, self confidence, a good starting point for commiting to a journey of growth. From there connections and metaphors can spin a web in many ways, which is fun, though it probably doesn’t have management appeal – maybe every situation is different, needing listening first before framing a message rooted in values.

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