The transformative nature of storytelling

Stories are powerful allies, they can connect us with others and strengthen therapeutic engagement to improve outcomes, says Fiona Jones

Fiona Jones
Fiona Jones professor of rehabilitation research at St George’s University of London

Our minds much prefer stories than facts and stats, so maybe it’s no surprise that the best and most popular TED talks are those that tell a story. We are also much more likely to remember and recount the story told when it hooks us in with a personal experience. I can remember numerous funny, tragic, and compelling stories that have been told to me by people living with complex health conditions such as Long Covid, stroke, brain injury – but I don’t remember their outcomes, stats and the numbers. Stories are those things that continually help us to connect and shape the relationships we build with patients, friends, and colleagues. 

But aren’t structures, processes, time, work pressures against us? And won’t this just open things up into areas we don’t have time for? No, in fact it’s the opposite: it could save time, and by asking an open question about what is meaningful, important and critical for that patient (otherwise known as a person) right here and right now, today – it will help to get to the heart of what’s important and help the focus of the time you may have together. 

What if we were able to start every new interaction with a patient not with a standard list of questions, but by being genuinely interested in their story and experiences, even if it’s just one small thing about them that would help you to know them a bit better.

The power of sharing a story is that it could be the platform to a trusting relationship, that will in turn enhance therapeutic engagement as well as being able to work together on meaningful goals and ultimately improve outcomes. 

It sounds obvious but to unleash the power of storytelling as part of our everyday practice we also need to listen, so why not ask your colleagues about a story or an interesting thing they have heard from a patient. Or just click on the link and walk in someone’s shoes.

Let’s all make story telling a bigger part of our day.

‘No story lives unless someone wants to listen’…JK Rowling.

Putting yourself in someone’s shoes

A Mile in My Shoes – The Health Foundation Fiona Jones is professor, rehabilitation research at St George’s University of London.  Fiona’s presentation, Successful self-management programmes for people living with long term conditions, at the recent CSP complexity challenge summit.

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