Volume 49, Issue 8, August 2020

Book review: Stories for work – The essential guide to business storytelling

Stephen A Margolis   
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Author: Gabrielle Dolan
Milton, Qld: John Wiley & Sons Australia, 2017
Paperback ISBN 9780730343295

While clinical practice is grounded in evidence-based science, the interaction with our patients is formulated through narrative. Rather than simply presenting patients with the best evidence, we use conversation and discussion to both explore the patient’s concerns and develop jointly agreed management plans. Hence, at the heart of the oral process is an integration of the different stories told by clinicians and patients. The dynamics of these processes in clinical care are learnt from the earliest stages of medical training and are taught essentially from the medical paradigm.

It is in this context that I found this book to be fascinating reading. Unlike more academic and weightier tomes, this slim volume presents an inclusive account of the underlying principles for effective communication, a wide range of easily understood examples and clear guidance for improving the reader’s storytelling impact on their listeners. Importantly, what has a negative impact on communication is also explored in some detail.

What I especially enjoyed was considering the art and science of learning and practising effective communication through an alternate prism. Unlike the traditional communication skills education programs that we are all familiar with, the approach taken by this book reflects that the author is not from a health sciences background. Hence her approach is somewhat different to what we are used to, presenting material that general practitioners might find somewhat eclectic and positioned in an alternative paradigm when compared with their previous experiences. Yet by the end of the book, I personally found the ideas presented allowed me to reflect on my clinical practice in a new and helpful light.

Clinicians with additional roles in the corporate world may be familiar with this work, as the author is highly respected in this domain, while those moving into that sphere of employment may find this book useful preparation.

In summary, although not specifically directed at doctor–patient communication, this expertly presented book provides important additional insights into the narrative process that is at the heart of Australian general practice.

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