I had a networking breakfast with a fascinating woman a few months ago. She shared several stories, and one of them had me transfixed: I vividly imagined the moment when she sat at her desk at 8:30 one night and realized that she needed to leave her career in Information Technology to pursue an life-changing opportunity in Org Effectiveness. Collectively, her stories told me who she is and through our mutual storytelling, we left Perkins later that morning with an emotional connection. The odd thing is that throughout breakfast, she kept saying, “I don’t think I’m any good at telling stories.” I thought her stories were sincere, heartfelt, inspiring, and memorable. Since then, I’ve encountered others who feel the same: their understated, yet authentic stories make them real and relatable, but they are convinced that they can’t tell a good story.
We’ve all known the larger-than-life storytellers, whose charisma and energy captivate others. We’ve also met the spin artists who weave interesting tales, but you’re never sure how much truth has been exaggerated for the sake of telling a good story. If these people are the role models for storytelling, I can understand why many shrink away from the whole idea. If you speak the truth about your own experiences and connect it to the topic at hand, you can build connections and understanding with others. You can be a successful storyteller by using the basic elements of storytelling and speaking with authenticity.
- Your True North — Your moral compass defines your values, philosophy, and core beliefs. These stories convey who you are and build your credibility.
- Your Personal Style — Introvert or extrovert, serious or playful, animated or understated . . . it doesn’t matter. Tell the story in a way that is you and you will have impact.
- Your History — Sharing the experiences, events, and people who have defined your life makes your story real. How does your history reveal universal truths that everyone faces (birth, death, love, loss, joy, sorrow, glory, and blessings)?
“Be a first rate version of yourself, rather than a second rate version of someone else.”
— Judy Garland
Your Life Stories
Mine your life for stories that reveal who you are and what is important to you. These stories make you human and touchable. Stories that evoke an emotion — sad, happy, funny, frustrated — will be remembered and build bonds with your listeners.
- Family and friends — family vacations, dinner table conversations, an episode that seemed like a disaster but became a source of laughter for years to come
- Work and career — choosing your career/vocation, getting promoted, working for a great boss, workplace drama, changing jobs, retiring
- Life turning points — when you decided what college to attend, when you got engaged, having your first child, becoming an empty nester
- Lessons learned — your biggest mistake, time you were glad you listened to your parents, when you thought you had the answers but you screwed things up because you didn’t
- Your vulnerable moments — school bully, failed love affair, a cherished pet, a bad boss, a really good friend
- Your hobbies and passions — enthusiasm is contagious and authenticity make you real
Arts and Entertainment
Fiction and non-fiction stories provide rich insights and inspiration for your stories. As you experience these stories, connect them to your opportunities for influence and inspiration.
- Movies and theater
Taking time to relax and process the events and experiences in your life will get your creative energies flowing and help you turn your life experiences into meaningful stories. If you already practice some of these habits, let your imagination weave stories during these times of reflection.
- Nature (sunrise, sunset, woods, mountains, ocean, lakes, rivers, streams, gardens)
- Journal writing
- Guided imagery