11 Jun Every Story is a Personal Story
Every Story is a Personal Story
Written by: Christine Taylor
If you’ve been to one of my workshops or met me in person at all, chances are I’ve told a personal anecdote.
I talk about my kids and my family and my travels. The trick is that while my stories may seem personal because I mention my family or my life, they are all about relatable observations and universal experiences. Audiences remember insights and lessons learned from stories much more effectively than they learn facts.
The pivot from the personal to the universal or from the personal to a theory or application is an effective tool for storytelling. Yet lots of people are hesitant to mix the personal and the professional. Academics are hesitant to add themselves to their research stories at all, despite being the person who did the work!
A lot of this hesitation can be blamed on the fear that you won’t be taken seriously if you refer to their personal lives in a presentation. Or worried that making the story about doing the research will take away from the results of the research. In fact, most academics have trained rigorously to separate the personal and the professional.
And yet, all of these folks share a fascination with TEDTalks and other forms of storytelling. TEDTalks tend to start with a personal anecdote. One of my favorites, Dan Barber, starts with a story of how he learned that his favorite fish was mostly fed chicken. The speaker connects with the audience by sharing a personal story of learning and disbelief and disappointment.
Traditional storytelling, even if the story topic ostensibly has nothing to do with the storyteller’s life, is infused with real emotions that the storyteller brings to the story. We learn life lessons from stories that take place in other cultures and times and even universes.
If you resist putting yourself into the story, your story may end up missing a vital ingredient: authentic human emotion. Your emotion. Your wonder or anger or sadness.
You don’t have to turn storytelling into therapy but bringing yourself to the story by sharing even the smallest truth about your life or the way you see the world, will send out a call to your audience.
“I’m here,” you’ll say to them, “won’t you join me?”