The Power of Your Own Story
Life is story
There are stories that we hear that are so riveting and captivating we never forget them. Other stories we remember in parts. Still others we hardly give any attention to. What makes the difference? Memorable stories touch us in some way. They move us emotionally, they intrigue us intellectually, they connect with us experiencially, or perhaps they make us laugh. In every case we remember them because in some way the story captivates our attention and becomes an experience that is stored and becomes part of our own story. “Remember at the family reunion in 2012 when Uncle Frank told us the story about getting locked out of the house in his underwear?” This retelling of a family story becomes a story within a story.
This kind of imprinted memory is possible when a communicator tells a story in such a way that captivates the audience through emotion, intrigue, personal connection or laughter. And the very best way for this kind of storytelling to happen is when we tell our own stories. There are at least four reasons why our own stories are the most memorable and powerful.
They are unique
Unless you are a very well-known communicator and tell the story hundreds of times, or have written a best-selling book, your story is unique. There is not another one being told just like it. It is fresh and surprising and interesting. This fact alone creates the potential for captivating your audience.
You know it very well
You know your story better than anyone. You can tell it without notes. You do not have to read it or try to remember it. You can put your whole self into the telling of the story and use all of your energy and senses and body to tell it. You can relive the story and bring it back to life in a way no one else can. You can help your audience enter the story. You can look into the eyes of your audience as you tell it and draw them into the story with you. This kind of storytelling creates an experience that is hard to forget.
It builds rapport and trust
Personal story also builds rapport and trust. As you relive the story through the telling of it you can authentically laugh and cry and scream and holler or whisper and lament or whatever it was you felt and did at the time of the story. No one else can do this. And this kind of personal storytelling causes your audience to believe you and trust you and builds rapport like nothing else can. You open yourself up to the audience and they open up to you. Your ordinary stories, when told with your whole being are a powerful tool and can make for extraordinary communication.
Another reason personal stories are the most unforgettable is because in telling them you can make significant connection with the audience. This is especially true if the story exposes personal vulnerability or frailty. Personal stories of failure or folly or even frivolity connect with your audience because they reveal to the listeners that you are one of them. You may be addressing them, teaching them, entertaining them, inspiring them, but when you tell a personal story involving raw human emotion, you are one of them. Common human experience connects uncommonly. These “I am human, too” stories are unforgettable because they create new unforgettable personal experiences and connections.
A great example
I just returned from a SCORRE Conference (www.scorreconference.tv) in Rome, Georgia. In one of the sessions one of our SCORRE coaches, Mason Peters, told a story from his childhood growing up on a farm near Winnipeg, Canada. The story involved his father giving him the task of “putting down” a five hundred pound sow. I cannot and will not even try to recount this story. But I will never forget it. As he relived this story in front of us we saw the shock on his face when his father gave him the task. We could see and hear the sow. We watched him struggle to move this enormous animal and we saw the terror on his face and heard the trauma in his voice as he pulled the trigger of the rifle he used to do the job. The rest I will leave to your imagination. Suffice it to say the audience was captivated. Mason told the story in such a way that it was as if we were behind that barn in rural Canada with him. He knew the story and did not need notes and could use every part of himself to tell it. He was reliving it. This is captivating. (If you are looking for a great entertainer, inspirational speaker or storyteller for your next event, contact Mason at email@example.com.)
It’s just not the same
I do not believe you can accomplish these outcomes with an audience when you are telling someone else’s story. You can practice and practice and make a good run at it. But you cannot relive the story, so you cannot bring others into the story as deeply. In fact, communicators who try to tell stories as if they are their own when they are not, lose all credibility with their audience when they find out. And even if a speaker explicitly says in some way that the story is someone else’s, which they should do, it immediately and substantially reduces the story’s impact.
Yes you do
I know. Some of you are thinking, “But I don’t have any good stories of my own.” There is nothing further from the truth. In the next couple of blogs we will explore how you can discover and craft stories from your own life that will captivate an audience and help you move from ordinary to extraordinary in your communication.