Archive for the ‘Story work’ Category

Let’s get personal: how personal stories help you connect

March 18th, 2016 No comments

Let’s get personal: how personal stories help you connect with others

a personal storyA couple of weeks ago I was working with a Chief Executive (I’ll call him Andy). Andy is beginning to use more stories in his work – when giving presentations, meeting clients, and talking one-to-one to his staff. His stories tend to be about other people and their achievements – which is great. Leaders develop trust when they are seen to give credit where credit is due. [1]

In a coaching conversation with Andy over a cup of coffee, I encouraged him to experiment with using more personal anecdotes – stories about himself – when meeting people for the first time. These ‘connection stories’ are a great way to reveal something about yourself – your values, your achievements or your experience – in a way that draws your listener in, rather than pushing them away.

“But isn’t it possible to over-share?” asked Andy. “I feel really uncomfortable when people get too personal. I don’t want to hear the ins and outs of someone’s stomach operation when I meet them for the first time!”

And I had to admit that Andy had a point. It is possible to over-share when telling stories – crossing the line between being open and letting it all hang out. I’ve heard stories being told that gave me a strong feeling of ‘too much information’.

How to tell if you are crossing the intimacy line

I shared with Andy some advice from Karen Dietz, a business storytelling author [2]. Karen distinguishes between three types of story: front porch stories, kitchen stories and bedroom stories.

Front porch stories are the kind you would tell to anyone; kitchen stories are the ones you reserve for your ‘inner circle’ or ‘kitchen cabinet’ of people you trust; and bedroom stories are the ones you share with only one or two of the very closest people in your life.

This was a useful ‘mental model’ for Andy: he now uses this as a test by asking himself if a story is one for the front-porch, the kitchen or the bedroom!

How else can you tell if you are ‘crossing the line’? Try testing out your story with someone in your ‘kitchen cabinet’ – someone who will tell you what they really think – and ask them what that story says about you: you may be surprised! If you are happy with what you hear, then go ahead and tell the story.

What you can say about this

“Tell me honestly: is this a front-porch story, a kitchen story or a bedroom story?”

“If I leave out some of the details, can I shift this story from the kitchen onto the front-porch?”

“What do you infer about me from the story I have just told you?”

Want to develop your own connection stories to help you influence, engage and inspire others? Join me in London on 27 April 2016 for Storytelling for Leaders.

  1. Maister, D.H. (2007), Earning Trust, New Careers podcast. 
  2. Hat tip to my storytelling friend and colleague Shawn Callahan, who originally shared Karen’s idea with me.