Story is not a commodity, to be taken from someone and given to someone else. Often, I help people find and share their stories, so that they can better share their stories or the story of their organization. I call this “listening in the service of telling” – as opposed to listening to better understand and craft solutions to organizational problems, for example. This kind of listening presents unique ethical challenges. I’m hoping to explore these challenges in greater depth at an upcoming panel, Ethical Storysharing for Social Change, at the South By Southwest conference. In preparation, I’ve been thinking about the following:
- Sometimes, the opportunity that you, as the story facilitator, are presenting to the storysharer may be his or her only chance to be heard.
- You are the sharer’s microphone.
- You may have more knowledge of the possible repercussions of a story being shared than the sharer does. You have an ethical obligation to protect the sharer.
- You must be clear as to whether there are any differences between your goals and the goals of the storysharer.