“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~ Maya Angelou
For several years I have attended an annual speaker’s workshop in Las Vegas. One of last year’s presenters was Michael Hauge. Michael works with Hollywood Screenwriters to find and tell what is most authentic in every moment of a story. I learned from him.
Do you tell stories? And I don’t mean fictitious tales. If you do, to whom? For what purpose?
Some of you know that I speak in public. As “facts tell but stories sell,” rarely do I speak exclusively about facts. Rather, I stitch them together into stories to provide an interpretation and to point to a larger significance. I do this because, among other commonalities, we are wired for relationship. In order to grow, develop and move closer in connection, we need to gather from one another. And this can be accomplished by simply sharing an insight or experience with other people.
For much of my adult life I worked in linear environments, settings which dealt in data, lacked color and focused on bottom lines. We didn’t tell stories; we delivered results to stakeholders. We grew business enterprises that did little to build cultural bridges, construct meaning or provide a shared understanding of our lives as knit together in society.
The only emotion we elicited was scorn from investors when goals weren’t met or elation from the same cohort when financial targets were surpassed.
Yet stories with emotion, the kind that bind families, generations and cultures, are key to what profoundly shape civilizations.
Have you ever paused to consider how your stories might change hearts and minds? An example: The Diary of Anne Frank did more to educate people about Auschwitz than any research on the topic. And it was simply her story. Stories invite participation. When you tell a story, you are essentially creating a framework for the listener, reader or viewer to insert their own details, thereby enabling an active role in the story itself.
Think about this: Identifying common value is attractive, not just for those with whom we want to communicate directly, but also to other listeners we might want to be part of the conversation. And many of us want to be part of some conversation. Right?
The reality is that each of us can be a storyteller. Perhaps you’ve not thought of yourself as one. What might be an insignificant experience to you could serve as a meaningful lesson for others. Yet, how are they going to benefit from said lesson if you aren’t telling your stories?
Don’t zip it. Share it! As an emerging (or growing) storyteller, consider these points:
- Have a reason or an objective. It may be to encourage or inspire or cause someone to think differently. Keep the story’s purpose in mind. At the story’s end, reflect on what you shared. And ask if there are questions.
- Be imperfect. We are delighted by stories that involve some vulnerability. People want to hear about struggles, and how to overcome them. It’s okay to talk about success but talk about the challenges; what got you there!
- Spread the glory. Give credit and explanation to those in your life who have helped you in your journey. Acknowledge those who influenced you and lifted you up to the heights you reached.