As Malcom Gladwell claims in his book The Tipping Point, you become an expert at anything if you do it 10,000 hours. I’ve got that in spades when it comes to listening to people’s stories. Part of my role as both a coach and a professional in the staffing industry is engaging with people daily about their life experiences – I’ve become a regular lifestory-listener over the past 25 or so years, and it never ceases to be an enjoyable experience for me.
At the end of the day, all you have is your story – or the ones that people tell about you. And in my experience of hearing dozens and dozens of personal stories, I have come to learn that how you tell your story is just as important – if not more so – than the story itself.
I have noticed that most people share their story from a not so certain frame of mind. They might start by saying,
“I know my career hasn’t followed a specific path, but ….” or,
“I have been in this role for X-number of years, and I am not quite sure how to transition to that next role, or how to help my employer know that I have what it takes to do this job ….”
More importantly, I observe quite often that people get caught up in where they have been, or where they are now, versus what they actually want to move toward. They say, “I want to leave because ….” versus, “I want to go do that because ….”
The latter sounds much more positive doesn’t it?
What you want to move toward is so important to the art of telling your story. When you look at it from that perspective, you are not stuck in the past, but you have embraced both the present and where you want to go. Your past helps you to tell your story, but ask yourself how it can help you create your future.
Case in point: a powerful story has a positive thread.
If you find yourself saying, “I don’t want to be in this role anymore,” instead of asking, “Why not?” ask yourself, “Where do I want to go now?” Instead of asking, “Why did this have to happen to me?” ask yourself, “How can this lead me to even greater things?”
At the end of the day, I know that most want to share their story in a clear, concise, positive way, but just haven’t found the right combination of words, or how to tie their story to what they want to achieve. That is alright! You can always modify and start to tell your story better by really listening to yourself. Or better yet, through telling your story to others and getting their feedback. In so doing, you will only get better at telling your life story in a more powerful, effective way.
Help people get to know you better by practicing your story with them. Ask questions of yourself, be curious, and find your positive and purposeful “what do I want to move toward” story woven throughout. Ask yourself what you really want, and how your adversities can work on your behalf. You will find yourself becoming a better storyteller – no embellishment or non-truths necessary.
In conclusion, anyone can master the art of telling their personal story! Curiosity, asking questions, and simply listening are a large part in my own success in helping people do so, and sometimes it takes listening very carefully to your own words …
So what career / family / success story do you want to share that reflects the best part of you and where you want to go? If you get stuck, let me know!
I will be happy to listen.