Storytelling for Fun & Profit

By Sofia Trigo ’20 

 Students practice telling their own narrative through a professional and personal lense. 
Students practice telling their own narrative through a professional and personal lense. 

 Storytelling for Fun and Profit is a KLI hosted half-day event that encourages students to uncover the nature of effective communication. Students participated in actives that explored how best to tell a story, frame a narrative and interact with a potential interviewer or employer.

What constitutes a charismatic leader? How can individuals create meaningful, authentic, relationships with their peers? What is the foundation of an inclusive, accepting community? These are just some of the many thought-provoking questions posed at the KLI sponsored event, Storytelling for Fun and Profit.

Initially, the group circled up outdoors and worked through engaging activities to frame the day. Student facilitators, Sydney Baffour’20, Edgar Warnholtz ’19 and Sydney Joseph ’18 offered to share personal anecdotes on their individual growth as leaders and as individuals. Student facilitators discussed how to exude and extend openness, how to challenge oneself to appear as authentic and genuine, and how best to connect similarities and celebrate differences.

Next, participants were split into small groups of three-four, including a student facilitator. The groups worked to further connect students and encourage more personal sharing. Interactions between students had visibility shifted from tentative conversation to more genuine curiosity and communication. Laughter and smiles, too, were contagious throughout the numerous small group exercises.

Much focus was directed towards learning how to ‘frame’ individual narratives. Students were asked to pair up and share a story where they “made a significant mistake”, first as if they were engaging with a fellow peer, and next, as if they were speaking to a potential employer. Upon reflection, many realized that while the content of their story remained the same, they had adjusted their tone and phrasing to reflect the change in audience.

KLI Director of Social Innovation and Impact, Gemma Bulos, reiterated this point when she said, “In the second story, it was clear that an effort was made to work on framing the story differently. It is super important to learn how to leverage the significant aspects and developments in your life to reflect who you are talking to.”

Many participants were intrigued by the prospect of improving their communication skills. Some, were eager to explore the nature of interaction when job searching or interacting with a potential boss or employer.

“I sometimes feel like I’m bad at interviews” said Austin Huan ’19, “I think this experience will be really helpful for me.”

KLI student facilitator, Edgar Warnholz ’19 was drawn particularly to the program subject, “I think stories are a great way to connect with people because they go beyond the small talk that you can hear every day,” he said.

In fact, the program wasn’t exclusive to CMC students. Both CMC Korean language student Jamie Kang, and Spanish language resident and Lucia Lopez Otal participated in the program. They shared excitement over improving their English-speaking skills and learning how to more effectively communicate effectively with others.

Student facilitator Tony Sidhom ’17 discussed how to go about maintaining a connection between the “head and the heart”, while facilitator Jahnavi Kocha ’19  emphasized the importance an ensured confidential sharing environment has on producing an effective story-telling environment.

Perhaps the most impactful part of the day came after Sara Thompson, KLI Director of Leadership Programs, presented the distinction between ‘ego stories’ – those told for the sake of self-promotion – and ‘soul stories’ – those that reveal more genuine aspects of the individual.

“I don’t want to put a value judgment on ‘soul stories’ versus ‘ego stores’ because both are equally important” she clarified, “but, today, our goal is to focus on how best to go about telling effective ‘soul stories’. Soul stories require authentic interactions, sharing from a place of humility and even being a bit vulnerable.  Ultimately these stories connect people at a deeper level, build trust, and are the reasons people choose to be led by you.”

Students were then asked to come up with their own ‘soul story’ and work on further developing their respective ideas in small groups.

“Writing my own soul story challenged me to create a path to my experiences and what has gotten me to this point in my life thus far” said Student facilitator, Sydney Joseph ’18, “I think that the ability to tell stories about yourself is more important now than ever in an increasingly polarized society in which people are experiencing an echo chamber of opinions similar only to their own.”