Have you ever wondered why you get teary-eyed over Christmas adverts? Have you ever been able to remember a book you read as a child even though you might not have read it in twenty years?
That’s the power of storytelling. I often get teary about TV shows and irritatingly cheesy ones, you know when a baseball team defies the odds and wins, or when Free Willy gets free, or even when people hug or clap or route for one another. It is usually because there has been some tale, some journey or some narrative I have been inadvertently hooked into. If you have ever watched X-Factor you’ll have seen them create little mini stories when introducing the auditionees… “Lucy lost her mum to cancer and lives alone with her dad as his main carer, she has always wanted to sing but was bullied for years about her voice.” That’s it – I am crying, especially when Lucy sings and is bloody great!
Stories are powerful emotional tools, a way to teach us rights and wrongs as well as empathy and societal expectations, but most importantly how-to connection. We all have stories, we understand them, they make us relatable and able to relate to.
But we feel embarrassed to share our stories. We think, who cares about my story? Why would anyone listen to me and my experiences? The question is, who wouldn’t want to know?
The truth is, we want stories, they reassure us, teach us, help us avoid our own mishaps, and shape our understanding of things. There is a reason Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Sky do so well, we get hooked on stories, characters, plots and narratives and we are willing to surrender huge quantities of our precious time to enjoy them. Even if we don’t enjoy them that much.
I believe the reason we second-guess or doubt our own stories or people’s interest in them is A: because of our own imposter syndrome and B: (and probably more accurately) we think our stories need to be these vast, epic fables. But some of the best stories are simple, heartfelt and small. The true success of storytelling comes in relatability and if you have ever watched a good comedian you will see this in practice. Everyday events that everyone can relate to, twisted or re-laid in such a way to make them funny.
As Mark Truby, Vice President of Communications, Ford Motor Company says, “a good story makes you feel something and is universal. They want to grasp your values and your commitment to excellence; be inspired and intrigued. Storytelling is the most powerful way to convey these ideas.”
So, the question is, what are your stories? What experiences do you have that you can share? What small feats have you made? What trials have you overcome? What interesting people have you met along the way?