Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Telling Life: Matching work to ethics to life

Storytelling is an incredibly powerful tool. We are hardwired to respond to narrative; it's one of the most direct ways to trigger emotion which in turn triggers action.

As a storyteller I have to make ethical choices about my work all the time. These include:

  • What kind of influence do I want to have on my audience?
  • How do I want them to feel?
  • What material do I tell, what boundaries do I enforce?
  • How can I build up my coaching clients without giving them false hope?
  • When I teach, how do I encourage my students to use storytelling to create meaningful change, to be entertaining and empowering?
  • As an organizational storyteller. what organizations do I want to empower to use story more effectively? Do they align with my ethics?

It's that last question that is interesting me the most today, for #tellinglife.

Shortly after the Gulf oil spill I was contacted by an organization involved in the accident. They wanted help telling the story of the spill so they wouldn't appear to be culpable but could be the heroes instead. They knew that for good spin they needed a good story. I was recommended to them by someone at another organization I had worked with.

I was polite and firm. I thanked them for their interest and turned them down. I said no.

This job could have netted me more income than any other job I have ever had (or expect to have). They could afford it. They were desperate. But I couldn't work with one of the organizations I felt was to blame for an environmental disaster.

I still kick myself for it to this day at the same time that I congratulate myself.

On the other hand, I am currently working with Unbound, an organization that helps disadvantaged people around the world. I love the work I'm doing with them and I feel good about it. I mention them with their permission as an organization that nourishes me as I work with them. It's a good match.

Because my work is so integral to who I am, it's important for me to work with people and organizations I personally am not repulsed by. When I'm lucky they are people and causes I can support.

Storytelling is such a powerful tool, I make choices all the time about the ethics of the work. This is just one way and something that I think about.

Have you had to make ethical choices in your work? What was that like? What did you choose? Why?

(c)2015 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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