The music died. I was about 1/8 of a mile from finishing a 5K and my playlist was carefully cultivated. Each song was strategically chosen for where I would be on the race route. Then……the music was no more. My phone died, and with it went those last couple of songs I had carefully selected to help increase my adrenaline and carry me across the finish line. The sun was starting to beat down and I desperately needed some water. I was close to the finish line, but it seemed miles away without my music. I had a choice to make. Slow down and walk the rest of the race, or try and find another way to finish strong. What would I do?
“Once upon a time”……we needed some more once upon a time. If we want to influence a wiser world, it may serve us well to gather around and tell some stories. Our relationships are made up of conversations. If we want to create deep meaningful connections, stories that pepper our conversations can facilitate those connections.
Neuroscientists have conducted research on our brains and how they react to stories. If you google it, you will find all kinds of results about the science behind storytelling. When we’re listening to a story that’s full of details, characters, and emotions, oxytocin is released, causing us to feel empathy. A well recounted story allows us to imagine ourselves in the very same situation, or reminds us of times when we’ve actually experienced a similar situation. My dad was a master storyteller. His stories were engaging and colorful, and we often wondered if they were a bit of a “fish tale” — and yet we would always meet someone who could corroborate every detail. (“The Bridge Builder“)
Storytelling can be a key to inspirational leadership. Our stories can engage, inspire and help others see our vision. How can we effectively craft our own “once upon a time”?
• Embrace vulnerability. Our imperfect lives are made up of a series of imperfect stories. Tell them as they are. While we know that demonstrating vulnerability can sometimes be challenging because we don’t want to break open our armor, open up and be honest and truthful. I was recently having a conversation with someone and we both started opening up and sharing stories about similar experiences. By the end of the conversation, she said, “You really see me.” Our story telling connected us deeply.
• Be you. Authenticity is what will enable your story to resonate with people. Margery Williams Bianco wrote in The Velveteen Rabbit, “by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all.” And they really don’t matter at all. What does matter is that we bring our own version of ourselves, and not what we think others want us to bring.
Next time you want to connect, deliver a message, or elicit some emotion, think about the story you could share.
Back to the 5K. It’s hot, I need water, I am tired, and there is no music. (Can you relate?)
I can quit, or slow down and walk, or I can find a way to finish strong. I looked up, opened my ears and listened to the voices around me that were lined up along the route shouting: “You can do this! We’re here for you!”
I knew what I had do to finish strong. And I started singing at the top of my lungs:
“Don’t stop believin’
Hold onto that feeling
Don’t stop believin’