Could Ireland's culture of storytelling support your diversity goals

September 04, 2023

It is not uncommon in Ireland that instead of "hello" or "Hi, how are you?" you will be greeted with "well, what’s the story?" or "any craic?" These popular greetings act as a reminder of our past and a reflection of our culture.

At the heart of Irishness and Irish identity are stories. Whether it’s captivating mythology or a heartfelt recounting of daily life, the Irish understand the power of sharing. There is an appreciation for creativity. There is a recognition for not just good stories but a good storyteller. Every town and village have someone who could rival Brendan Grace in their recounting of everyday life. The modern-day Irish continue to be renowned for their humour and ability to weave vivid stories with theatrical pace and gestures.

Historically, this skill of charming an audience has stood to the Irish. Throughout this short article we will look at the skills, the impact and the opportunities for storytelling for our diversity goals.

Turn the rivers green!

As the Irish escaped hardships by emigrating to other lands, they preserved their Irishness and maintained a connection to their past through the seanchaí culture. They told folklore, legends, and stories of their loves, lands, and all they are left behind. These stories then helped create an understanding of Irish culture, practices, and traditions. It bound communities together and, as we know, in some places left a mark so strong that they still turn their rivers green to this day.

Making this deep mark on society required the ability to capture an audience. To share the richness of your culture in a way that allows for connection, there is relatability and empathy. When someone shares a story that means something to them, there is an authenticity that brings emotion to the surface that cannot be faked. It helps to share not just a message but also a feeling.

For this story or lived experience to make an impact, it is as important to have an audience that is listening. People listening to understand you and not just to respond. For those listening to meet your struggles and journey with compassion and kindness.

Now for your diversity goals...

At the heart of diversity and inclusion is a person. A person with a story: by understanding the lived experience of others, you can understand the barriers they face and the challenges they overcome that you may never have experienced.

For those interested in and responsible for diversity, you must understand the systemic disadvantages that groups face in order to create pathways to reduce or overcome them. Without knowledge and understanding, you cannot advocate for change.

Storytelling and our use of storytelling shows us the importance of learning from the experiences of marginalised groups. While historically we have shared our stories and imparted our culture on others, it is now our time to listen and understand others without bias.

Interested in hearing from experts on how storytelling can support diversity, how listening can support inclusion, workplace connection and managing conflict and how the skills of storytelling have supporting advocates in Ireland? Then give our upcoming podcast a listen: Ibec Voices: How Ireland’s History of Storytelling impact your diversity?

Samantha Owens
Policy Executive