Part of #WorkingOutLoud is to continually revisit your work, iterating new ideas as you prototype and trial things out in practice. With that in mind, i’ve been sharing some new language around ‘Story Listening’, to sit as part of developing your own Social Leadership skills. It’s really about how we respond to stories, and to the ways in which they are shared. The specific impetus for this has been seeing instances where stories are shared by the community, but killed stone dead by the formal authority (which doesn’t want to hear them, or doesn’t recognise them well).
When stories are shared out of the social community, we need to hear them: we need to be in the right spaces, with the right type of (socially moderated) authority, if we are to have a chance of hearing them. We need to earn trust within these spaces, and understand how consequence is experienced and anticipated. It’s important to establish our potential to hear: to earn the trust, to engage with humility, to be ready to hear.
Once stories are shared, we must respect what is said, however it lines up against our view: apply a formal response to a socially shared story is to miss the point. This is not about assessment or agreement, it’s about listening with humility, and being privileged to hear alternative views. It’s a curse of formal systems to feel the need to know everything already, to say ‘yes, we are doing that here…’. Sometimes, you need to respect other views, and other authority, and especially to recognise the value in stories of difference. Alternative viewpoints, diverse opinions. As Social Leaders, we don’t have to unify the different stories, we have to understand them.
The ways in which we thank people for contributing is important too: a formal ‘thank you’ may carry little weight in social spaces, instead we should bolster the reputation of people who share stories, we should help them to build their own Social Authority. We can even devolve ways of letting the community itself moderate it’s own reward and recognition, with, for example, socially defined and moderated badges.
Storytelling is a core skill for Social Leaders, but Story Listening, no less so. It’s intimately tied into the humility of Social Leadership, the ability to craft stories of difference and dissent, not to colonise them with what we think is ‘right’, but rather to learn from them, and discover where we ourselves may be wrong.