Subjectivity in Storytelling: Storyselling

Knowledge Center


Anneke Zwart
Student (University), Netherlands

Subjectivity in Storytelling: Storyselling

Much of the past literature about storytelling assumes stories as neutral objects instead of seeing it as an object of which the perception and acceptance depends on the way the story is formulated and told.
Carr and Ann (2011) argue that a high level of subjectivity exists in storytelling. According to them, the impact of a story is not self-evident by the theme and content of the story.
Rather, it also depends on the motivation of presenting the story, the way of presenting the story and the way the story is fragmented.

Especially when drafted by coaches of managers and leaders in order to increase their performance, stories are constructed in such a way that the listener accepts the story’s integrity and coherence and is convinced of its pearls of wisdom. The concept of storytelling can then be seen as selling a story: Storyselling

The idea behind storyselling is that there is a relationship between the listener’s psychological state and the telling (selling) of a story. When looking at management and leadership coaching there are certain elements that make the listener more likely be convinced of the truthfulness of the story. Examples of such elements are feelings of shame, regret and incapacity. These elements can actually be implied by the coaches, so as to convince the listener to accept the story in which the needed knowledge and skills to remove those feelings are presented.

An example that explains how one’s psychological state affects the perception of a story is the case of over trusting a story. Those that search for help and ask for a coach have a strong desire to trust the story because only in that way they can use the story to enhance their knowledge, skills and performance. In such a psychological state, trusting the story of a coach then results in increased self-esteem and self-confidence.

Source: Carr, A.N and C. Ann (2011) “Introduction: The Use and Abuse of Storytelling in Organizations” Journal of Management Development Vol. 30 Iss.3 pp. 236-246


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