Crafting Inclusive Narratives: Essential Tips for Storytellers

In today’s diverse and interconnected world, communicators can use storytelling to powerfully shape perspectives, challenge assumptions and foster understanding across various communities.

However, the way we tell and share stories can either perpetuate hurtful, prejudicial stereotypes and exclude marginalized identity communities, or create more inclusivity, understanding and empathy for all. As communicators and story facilitators (see below for the definition), it’s our responsibility to ensure that our narratives reflect the richness and complexity of human experiences.

Here are some crucial tips for practicing inclusive storytelling:

  • Define Your Objective: Clarify your objectives before embarking on any storytelling journey. Understand who your audience is, what you aim to achieve and why your story matters. This foundational step will guide your narrative’s tone, content and delivery, ensuring that it resonates with diverse audiences.
  • Shift from Storyteller to Story Facilitator: Embrace the role of a story facilitator who amplifies the voices and perspectives of others — authentic storytellers. Center the emotions, language and viewpoints of individuals with lived experiences, prioritizing authenticity, transparency and empathy in your storytelling approach.
  • Challenge Notions of Expertise: Expand your definition of expertise beyond traditional sources. Incorporate diverse voices and lived experiences as subject matter experts, including those directly impacted by the issues you’re addressing, to offer first-hand, multifaceted insights and solutions.
  • Check Your Assumptions: Be mindful of your biases and assumptions, which can hinder genuine connection and understanding. Approach conversations with humility and curiosity, avoiding stereotypes and generalizations.
  • Combat Tokenism: Representation matters, but true inclusivity goes beyond surface-level diversity. Engage with diverse perspectives authentically, seeking input and feedback from a broad range of voices to ensure meaningful representation.
  • Humanize Individuals: Focus on the person rather than reducing them to labels or categories. Use people-first language and avoid dehumanizing terms that erase individuality and diversity within communities.
  • Challenge Harmful Representations: Interrogate stereotypes and preconceived notions that may perpetuate harmful narratives in your storytelling. Familiarize yourself with diverse experiences and consult resources like the Diversity Style Guide and Conscious Style Guide to ensure respectful and empowering storytelling.
  • Communicate Clearly and Plainly: Use plain language and accessible formats to make your content understandable to all audiences. Prioritize clarity and simplicity in your writing, ensuring everyone can engage with your story regardless of background or ability.
  • Embrace Gender Neutrality: Avoid gendered language and stereotypes in your storytelling. Opt for inclusive language that acknowledges and respects all gender identities, creating a more welcoming environment for all readers.
  • Prioritize Accessibility: Consider the diverse needs of your audience, including people with disabilities, when crafting your content. Ensure that your materials are accessible through various formats, such as captions for videos and alt text for images, to promote inclusivity for all.
  • Seek Feedback and Collaboration: Invite diverse perspectives and feedback throughout the storytelling process. Build a network of trusted advisors representing a range of identity communities to help identify areas of weakness and ensure that your narratives are inclusive and respectful.

By implementing these strategies, storytellers can create narratives that better reflect the diversity of human experiences and foster empathy, understanding and connection across communities through inclusive storytelling.

Resources for Inclusive Storytelling: