Don’t we love a good movie? When we watch films, we anticipate connecting to a memorable story and something larger than ourselves. A good storyline captures our imagination, requires attention, and captures deep emotions. Powerful stories contain multiple scenes which often ricochet from intrigue to action to despair – and finally resolution.
If we consider, each human being is living out his own movie. “All the world’s a stage,” comes to mind. Even as we star in our own productions, we take various roles in others’ productions as well. Sometimes we are cast as villain. Others have us appear as heroine, or simply sideline us as reliable friend. We engage as lovers, fighters, rescuers. There is probably no role we have not played, although victim is among our favorites. We likely conceal that we are ourselves victimizers, a role we vehemently deny.
How we tell our stories is important. Our stories play out and are interpreted by each of us. We interpret meaning to ourselves and then share them as well with others, often without being aware. Meaning is transmitted through our words, tone of voice, and gestures. They are key clues to how we and others find meaning, acceptance and resolution to each scene. Make the best use of your storytelling techniques in these two ways:
1. Decide why are you telling the story. Are you using it to inspire, entertain or teach? Are you looking for empathy and connection? Trying to prove yourself? Gain power you’ve lost? Are you searching for your story’s truth?
A typical question I get from clients who are in the process of divorce is, “How do I tell this story?” The underlying fear is that others will pass judgment or humiliate them for making this tough decision. Emotions run high during such a life-changing event. How we tell our story – to others and ourselves – determines if we recover quickly or are confined to struggle and self-doubt.
2. Set the scene. Who or what is the story about? Are you casting your spouse as a lazy and angry person? It’s better to offer straight information without interpretation. Being overly dramatic can be judged as manipulative and confusing. Listeners will draw their own conclusions anyway.
As a Wellness Coach I counsel clients to tell their story in a way that keeps them strong and empowered. We discuss how to communicate to others they are okay, but may need time. We select specific words to better match the language they are unconsciously communicating through their eyes, voice and body.
Rehearsing lines helps clients find a script that is honest, easy to remember and authentic. It is also a means of intentionally building up energy to synchronize with their mindful direction. Others are then better able to see the leading actor taking charge of their destiny, and heading towards resolution. Isn’t that what heroes are made for?
How are you telling your story? Pay attention to your reasons for sharing it and set the stage. Be aware of the emotions you stir up in yourself and others. Know that emotions are the most telling barometer for testing whether or not your story is harmful or constructive.
Your mission: Make sure your story promotes connection and enhances trusting relationships.