Monday, May 11, 2015

Using Stories Effectively to Teach Safety

© Booth
In the May 2015 issue of Professional Safety, Mitch Ricketts discusses how training and information can have a powerful impact on safety-related attitudes and behaviors. The article, "Using Stories to Teach Safety: Practical, Research-Based Tips," provides insight and examples on how to use stories effectively and includes the following tips: 
  • Use a balance of stories and generalized information. Stories help audiences understand the personal relevance of a message, leading to behavior change, while nonnarrative information (general facts) help audiences gain a more thorough understanding of the issues, leading to changes in knowledge and attitudes. 
  • Use stories to illustrate key points, but keep stories focused and relevant. Avoid unnecessary details and tangents that may detract from the message’s main theme.
  • Use stories that clearly demonstrate convincing cause-and-effect relationships. Safety stories are most effective when connections between causes and effects are indisputable and when told in chronological order.
  • Use stories whose central characters share important attributes with audience members. Stories are more effective when audience members can understand the actions and motives of at least one story character. Impact tends to be greatest when story characters are similar to audience members with respect to occupation, life experiences, values or other important characteristics.
  • Use stories that involve familiar situations, but unexpected outcomes. Stories have great personal impact when they include surprising events in everyday settings. Use stories with ordinary beginnings so audiences will know what should happen next. This will help them appreciate the significance of any unfortunate outcomes that could have been prevented.
  • Use stories that emphasize preventive measures the audience members can control. For example, stories for workers should involve solutions that would be under their own control (and not the control of management); otherwise, they may conclude the responsibility lies with others (rather than themselves). 
  • Use stories that develop suspense so the audience will want to know the outcome. People become emotionally engaged in suspenseful stories. To create suspense, use stories that involve important issues and ask the audience to discuss possible outcomes before telling them what actually happened.
  • Use stories in which outcomes would change if the characters acted differently. Messages should prompt audience members to consider the personal significance of preventive measures and outcomes. Make sure each tragedy in the stories could have been prevented, and ask trainees to discuss how the lives of characters would be different had the precautions been implemented.
  • Use images to illustrate the important objects and events in the stories. Information is more easily understood when it is presented using a combination of words and images, rather than words or images alone. Use photographs, videos, sketches or working models to illustrate important or potentially confusing events.