Two public speakers. Same topic: how to change your life for the better.
The first speaker shares a list of facts — statistics about the number of people who are unhappy in their careers, the health benefits of relaxation, and how to re-wire your brain to achieve goals, faster. Great facts. All true. All powerful. All worth listening to.
The second speaker shares the same list of facts — but illustrates each one with a true story. Sometimes, a story about her own life. Sometimes, a story about a loved one or friend. Exact same facts. Plus honest, vulnerable stories.
Which speaker are you going to remember?
The second one, of course.
Human beings respond to emotional stories, not dry Powerpoint lectures.
Stories make facts come alive.
As the late great Maya Angelou once wrote:
“…People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Stories make us feel.
But when it comes to sharing stories online — or onstage — many people feel uneasy.
“How much is too much? I don’t want to over-share…” several coaches have said to me.
“Isn’t it unprofessional to reveal your private life, like that?” business owners often ask.
No, it’s not unprofessional.
Telling a well-crafted story is one of the most powerful and “professional” things you can do.
As long as your story passes the following litmus test:
: Does the story have a point?
What’s the moral of the story? What’s the takeaway? After hearing your story, will audiences walk away thinking, “That was a great lesson. I needed to hear that.” Or, “Uhhh. OK. Really didn’t need that visual in my head.”
If you’re not sure what the “point” is, then it’s either not the right story to tell … or maybe you’re just not ready to tell it, because it’s still too raw and fresh. (You might need more time to process + figure out the lesson for yourself.)
: Do you have the right to tell this story?
Does this story involve your sister, who would be mortified if you shared it?
Is this story about your ten-year-old daughter, who might not want her life story (or photos) plastered across the Internet, once she’s a few years older?
Only tell the stories that truly belong to you — the ones that are yours to tell.
When you’re in a gray area, consider changing people’s names or swapping out a few descriptive details.
Above all, be compassionate. Treat other people’s lives + stories with the same respect that you’d want for your own.
: Will this story help at least one human being, aside from yourself?
Will it entertain, inspire, educate, elevate, motivate, empower, soothe … or simply make someone feel less alone?
If your story has the potential to make someone’s day (or life) better, then it is worth telling.
You never know whose life is going to be transformed, forever, by the stories that only you can tell.
Your blog post might save someone’s marriage. Your YouTube video might help a woman on the other side of the planet set down that pint of ice cream, instead of eating the whole thing. Your self-defense workshop might inspire a teenage girl to stand up to a bully, because you did, when you were her age.
You might help dozens, hundreds or thousands.
You might never see them, hear from them, or meet them.
But your mark will be on their hearts.
Your stories will be part of their lives.
P.S. What’s one story you’ve been wanting to tell? What’s the lesson, tucked inside of it? I teach more on this in Clear Coaches – enrollment is opening soon.
Keep the conversation going at Facebook.
P.P.S. Here's a short video for Urban Campfire (where I am at today!) I talk about telling your stories.