2022 CP Yen Foundation Dialogue Newsletter  Spring  issue


Story in service of Dialogue” by Mary Alice Arthur

From <The Power of Dialogue- Conversations with Masters> series

( summary by Keli Yen, graphic recorder: Grace Wang)

How do we enhance the power of dialogue to help a group make better decisions?  How can we learn together and support each other’s successes and challenges as a community of dialogue practitioners?  These questions are the reasons why the CP Yen Foundation is hosting a series of discussions called “The power of Dialogue-conversations  with Masters”. The 2022 series kicked off on 7 March with guest speaker Mary Alice Arthur introducing “Story in Service of Dialogue”, and this newsletter is a summary of that webinar.

Mary Alice Arthur is a Story Activist, meaning that she works with story in service of positive systemic shifts and focusing collective intelligence on critical issues.  Her aim is to create spaces where a new story can take people into a generative future. 

We live in a story and that means we can change it.   All day long we’re surrounded by stories competing for our attention.  Advertisements try to sell their vision of the good life, political ideologies promote their stories about society’s problems and solutions, the organizations we work in also have a story about their goals and ethics, and we also have stories in our own minds about our identity and the world we live in.  We’re immersed in these stories, yet we are not a passive recipient of them, on the contrary, we have the power to create and to change them.  Mary Alice’s talk introduced how to appreciate storytelling as a force for change inside ourselves and in our greater social context.  

“I create spaces where the right story can take people to the next life-giving future that they’re longing for,” explained Mary Alice, echoing an organizational learning tenet that the quality of dialogue determines the quality of solutions.  Mary Alice adds that “a good story makes one an activist because it makes you want to do something”, it has the potential to inspire connections between your head, heart and hands and can be an effective leadership tool.

In Mary Alice’s experience people are expecting leaders to provide

  1. a picture of where we’re going,
  2. a purpose for working, and
  3. authentic respect for people’s dignity and contribution.

Leadership can also be understood as a role that holds the space for people to generate meaning from their common endeavor.  Since stories are how people often interpret the meaning of their experiences, leadership then, includes the art of developing stories that enable a group to achieve or perceive a goal together.

This webinar was held on a day before International Women’s Day, so we took a moment to consider the gender dimension of leadership.  Mary Alice remarked that female leaders and male leaders tend to tell different stories. She’s noticed that female leaders tell collaborative stories whereas male leaders generally tell competitive stories. How can we balance or flow between different types of stories is a challenge for leadership story telling.

In her introduction Mary Alice used the image of listening through two angels, the participant or self and as a leader or facilitator.  Facilitators can support groups and leaders develop their collective storytelling by designing processes that support their progression through the stages of divergent thinking, to insight emergence and ultimately to convergence towards actions that can move the group forward.  Mary Alice introduced a tool for this process called the “Diamond of Participation”, also known as “the Breath Pattern” by the “Art of Hosting” community of practice.

The process begins by exploring who the stakeholders are in relation to an issue, why it matters to them, and what they want to achieve in regard to the issue.  This is the Divergence phase.  A facilitator can use storytelling and dialogue to help the stakeholders’ diverse perspectives emerge.  As the different stories emerge they can cause people to feel discomfort (i.e. the “groan” zone) and/or to learn and grow together.  As the stakeholders develop greater understanding of one another the group eventually enter into a phase of convergence in which they develop a common story and a way to move forward together.

Facilitators support groups through this change process by strengthening clarity during the divergence phase, curiosity during the groan/grow phase, and conscious closure during the convergence stage, as shown in the diagram below.

After Mary Alice introduced how to understand and work with storytelling, participants were invited to experience storytelling in small groups of three. 

Activity:  Story Trios

Each person has the opportunity to explore one of the three areas – what stories are ending, in the middle or beginning at their life or work.  What have your learned from that experience?  Their partners then act as reflection to help each see their own view in that aspect of the reality.  It also helps us  realize we are  in all three spaces in different aspects of our  lives.

Following the Story Trio exercise, participants reflected on the “gifts” they gained from the activity.  Some gifts mentioned were: the joy of active listening, empathizing with other people’s stories and seeing commonalities between their experience and one’s own, and noticing that a compelling story gets a grip on one’s imagination and can enrapture people. 

Practice of dialogue and deep integration is important, perhaps more important than ever before as choices seem to always be presented as “either or”.  Story is the meaning you make out of your experience. Stories are a key way to help us create empathetic listening , to connect to each other and create more equality.   Dialogue and story are closely connected.  That is how story is in service of dialogue. From story – questions – conversations comes better more subtle collective sense making. That is the power of story.

A good story makes one an activist because it makes you want to do or be something. It connects your head, heart and hands. If you are a humanbeing you are a story teller.You can change your life by changing your story!


2022朝邦文教基金會對話新訊息 – 春季刊

讓故事開展對話,Mary Alice Arthur
摘錄自《對話的力量 – 與大師對話系列》

身為對話實踐者,我們能如何強化對話的力量,以幫助團隊做出更好的決策?在對話實踐者社群裡,我們如何共同學習並支持彼此的成功與挑戰?這些問題正是朝邦文教基金會舉辦一系列名為「對話的力量——與大師對話」所要探討的原因。2022年系列於3月7日拉開序幕,對話力分享嘉賓瑪麗.愛麗絲.亞瑟以「讓故事開展對話」為題,在線上與來自台灣、香港、大陸、馬來西亞、新加坡等國家的參與者分享多年來的經驗,以下為這場網路分享會的摘要。

瑪麗.愛麗絲.亞瑟是一名故事行動家,她透過故事,引導正面的系統性轉變,並將集體智慧專注在關鍵問題上。她的目標是創造空間,讓新的故事將人們帶入生成的未來。

我們都生活在故事中,這表示我們可以改變它。我們每天被故事包圍,分散了注意力。廣告試圖推銷對美好生活的憧憬,政治意識形態宣傳著對社會問題與解決方案的故事,我們工作的組織也有關於目標和道德的故事,當然,我們亦存在自己的身份和生活故事。我們不斷地沉浸在這些故事中,但我們不是被動的接受者,相反的,我們有創造和改變它的力量。瑪麗.愛麗絲的分享正是介紹如何將「說故事」視為一種改變我們內心、擴大社會脈絡的力量。

「我創造空間,讓對的故事將人們帶到他們渴望的、充滿生命力的未來。」瑪麗.愛麗絲的解釋,呼應了組織學習的原則,即對話的品質決定了解決方案的品質。瑪麗.愛麗絲補充說,「一個好的故事使人更為積極,因為它讓你想去行動。」它有可能激發你的腦、心和手間的聯繫,並成為有效的領導工具。

在瑪麗.愛麗絲的經驗中,人們期望領導者能提供:

1. 我們將前往目標的景象

2. 工作的目的

3. 真誠地尊重人們的尊嚴和貢獻

領導力也可以理解為一種角色,它提供空間讓人們共同努力創造意義。由於故事是人們詮釋自身經歷意義的方式,因此,領導力包括發展故事的藝術,使團隊能夠共同實踐或感知目標。

這場分享會在國際婦女節的前一天舉行,會中因此提到了領導力的性別差異。瑪麗.愛麗絲認為,不同性別領導者傾向於講述不同的故事。她注意到女性領導者講述合作故事,而男性領導者以競爭故事居多。我們如何在不同類型的故事間平衡或流動,是領導力故事鋪陳的挑戰。

瑪麗.愛麗絲在介紹中,使用兩個聆聽天使的形象,參與者或自己,以及領導者或引導者。引導者可以透過流程設計,支持團隊和領導者在思維發散階段的進展,以建立他們的集體故事,直到洞察力的出現,最終收斂到可以推動團隊前進的行動。瑪麗.愛麗絲定義這個過程為「參與鑽石模型」,也被「主持的藝術」社群稱為「呼吸模式」。

這個過程首先探索議題的利益相關者是誰?為什麼對他們很重要?以及他們希望達成什麼?這是發散階段。引導者可以透過說故事與對話,來協助利益相關者提出不同的觀點。隨著不同故事的出現,可能導致人們感到不適(即「動盪」區),然後一起學習和成長。隨著利益相關者加深對彼此的了解,團隊最終會進入一個融合階段,在這個階段他們會形成一個共同的故事,以及共同前進的方式。

引導者藉由在發散階段加強清晰度、在動盪與成長階段加強好奇心,以及在收斂階段有意識地結束,來支持團隊完成此變革過程,如下圖所示。

瑪麗.愛麗絲在介紹如何理解和運用說故事之後,線上參與者即以三人小組的形式體驗說故事。

活動:故事三重奏

每個人都有機會探索三個領域:生活或工作上,什麼故事正在結束、處在之間或才剛開始?自己由那次經歷中學到了什麼?然後,同組的其他夥伴提供聆聽後的回饋,幫助每個人真實地看到自己的觀點。這個活動同時讓每個人意識到,我們生活的各面向隨時處於這三種過程中。

練習故事三重奏之後,參與者提出大家由活動所獲得的「禮物」,包括了積極聆聽的樂趣,同理他人的故事,看到他人與自己經歷間的共同點,並注意到激動人心的故事能抓住人們的想像力且令人著迷。

當我們經常面臨「非此即彼」的選擇時,對話的實踐與深度的整合似乎比過去任何時刻都來得重要。故事是你從經歷中得到的意義,也是幫助我們建立同理的聆聽、相互聯繫以及建立平等的關鍵。由故事—探詢—對話,產生更微妙的集體意義。讓對話與故事緊密相連,就是故事的力量,也是開啟對話之鑰。

一個好故事使人成為行動家,因為它讓人想有所作為。它連接你的腦、心和手。如果你是人,你就是一個說故事的人。你可以透過改變你的故事,來改變你的生活!

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