Embracing the uncomfortable

Simple storytelling exercises will help get your staff on board and comfortable with implementing Family-Centered Care. Here are 3 exercises to try in your clinic.

In helping practices in New Zealand implement Family-Centered Care (FCC), I witnessed the objections the original FCC researchers found in action.1 The most crucial one in my experience was, “HOW do we talk to people about this?”

And these come from staff in all parts of the clinic… “HOW do I talk to people about it on the phone?”… “HOW do I talk to people about it in the waiting room?”… “HOW do I talk to people about this in the clinic room?”…“HOW do I word this in a follow up review letter?”

How to get your staff on board

We know the importance of getting everyone on board in a hearing clinic for FCC to be truly effective and experienced by clients. This means everyone from the business owner, through to the front line staff, through to clinicians must be on the same page. This seems like a daunting exercise. After all, how many rules, policies, regulations, and codes that we’ve tried in the past have fallen to the wayside when big groups of people need to work together?

What a team needs is a moment of sharing, a cathartic instance where the “Aha!” reaction is generated as a group. This way everyone experiences the same moment and it’s this moment rather than rules written on paper that will help your group going forward.

What I’ve found helpful is to remind your group that by avoiding emotions and potential difficult conversations, we’re only feeding that ‘fear of the uncomfortable’. And that fear grows the more we feed it. On the contrary, by letting go of this fear and embracing it, we can feel empowered.

The 3 exercises I’ve done to help bring this across is as follows:


  • Ask your team to pair up (3’s are okay if there are odd numbers).
  • Ask them to think of something that has happened to them recently that really annoyed them and why it was the worst thing that could have happened to them that day (e.g. someone stole their parking spot).
  • Encourage them to tell their story with such emotion that the others can feel their annoyance just as much!
  • Ask them to tell the same story again, this time, why it was the best thing that could have happened to them that day.

After this exercise, they should understand the power of using a positive framework.

2.Storytelling without sharing

  • In the same pairs or in different pairs, ask one team member to be the storyteller and one to be the listener.
  • Instruct the storytellers in another room to think of a story that really made them feel good and happy, and they will get to tell this story to the listener (e.g., their kid’s first day at school, their wedding day).
  • Instruct the listener that the storyteller has a story to tell and it is their job to get the story out of them by asking questions.
  • When the pair are back in the room together, you set Rule #1: The listener can only ask Yes/No questions
  • Allow 5 minutes, then set Rule #2: The listener can only ask questions based on numbers.

At this point, both listener and storyteller should be fairly agitated. Since the storyteller has an emotional story to tell, being asked only yes/no questions and questions based on numbers do not encourage them to share. After this exercise, they should understand the limitations of storytelling when questions don’t encourage sharing.

3.Storytelling with sharing

  • Finally, instruct the storyteller to tell their story however they like and the listener to ask any questions they like.

It is between exercises 2 and 3 or after step 3, that we can point out the obvious; when we encourage people to share, everything about that interaction changes. Both parties’ body language relaxes and reciprocal communication flourishes.

It is through these moments, that everyone in your team should understand what we mean by ‘embracing the uncomfortable’.

To find resources for implementing Family-Centered Care, we invite you to the Phonak landing page for Family-Centered Care.


1.Ekberg, Katie, et al. (2020). Identifying barriers and facilitators to implementing family-centred care in adult audiology practices: a COM-B interview study exploring staff perspectives. International Journal of Audiology: the Official Journal of Owner Societies, 59(6), 464–474.