Connecting local responses around the world
Yesterday we did an exercise on story telling in a meeting with an informal network of former refugees that are building a future in the Netherlands. In fact, it is a loose network in the process of becoming a community, so we thought it would be a good idea to find a way where the members of this group get a chance to get to know each other better in a safe way, and also to get to know each other's strengths.
Recognising your own strengths, helps you climb mountains and overcome challenges. Seeing each other's strengths, can help build a strong community of mutual trust and support.
We started identifying everyone's strengths through stories they told in groups of three where one person told the story and two people listened. The story was about a good experience with collaboration in a team, and the people who listened, they listened for the strengths, talents and skills in the story of the story teller.
We are thrilled to see so many powerful and beautiful qualities present in this support network! These strengths will help to make their dreams come true.
One particular powerful way to work with story telling, is that you ask for a STORY (to dig up strengths) that is an exception in what you believe about yourself. E.g. when you think collaborating is hard (or you had bad experiences with collaboration) ask the other person to share a story where collaboration was fun and successful.
Or when people are hesitant to take initiative, ask them to tell you a story where they DID take initiative and were successful. This can be thought provoking and it might shatter negative beliefs about oneself.
As collaboration is new for this group, we chose to let them tell a story about a collaborative effort that they really liked and they were proud of their role or contribution.
One triad consisted of three women. They were talking in Arabic and I had some misgivings as to where the conversation was going. It turned out that they had an open discussion that started with sharing personal stories (as we had asked them), but these stories didn't always cover a positive experience with collaboration. Also, instead of uncovering strengths, they started exchanging views on parenting and motherhood.
As you can see on the photo, people wrote the outcome of the dialogue in Arabic, English and Dutch. After the exercise we had a break, and during the break I asked someone to translate what the women had written on their post-its. It turned out that strengths hadn't fully surfaced for everyone. We invited one woman to come join us, and she shared very personal things about the story of her life and her doubts. We told her that we saw her wisdom and her sense of responsibility in the important decisions she had made. We were all very touched by what she shared with us, and we pointed out how we noticed strengths that she hadn't noticed herself.
At the end of the day I gave her three kisses on her cheeks (as we do among female friends in the Netherlands). Normally, I don't get that close to people at work, but this is what SALT does: our common humanity is stirred. What a relief to act as a human being and express warmth to another woman, instead of keeping a "professional" distance. SALT changes me!
One more thing: the members of this network told us they want to regain self-confidence now that they are building a new life in a radically different environment. Maybe we'll repeat Story Telling on Strengths every time we meet! I am sure the conversation will deepen every time. On a more practical note: doing this exercise will help apply for jobs (write a CV, write a LinkedIn profile, etc.)