A cup of coffee (a story narrated by a friend)
A group of us, established in our careers, arranged to visit with a favorite professor during our 20th class reunion. We had all participated in a field study project under this professor’s direction
The professor, now retired, living alone, and still quite active welcomed us into his home.
After about fifteen minutes of small talk, the conversation turned into complaints about stress in work and life.
The professor offered us coffee and returned from the kitchen with a large pot and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite. There were more cups than the number of people in the room. I wondered why.
He asked us to help ourselves. I picked a ceramic cup adorned with flower patterns that reflected my taste in all things beautiful.
When all of us had a full cup of coffee in our hand, the professor said, "If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is but normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is also the source of your problems and stress”.
“What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but each of you consciously went for the best cups and were eyeing each other's cups”.
He continued, “Now if life is coffee, then the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. The cups are just tools to hold and contain life. By concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee in it."
That was some deep insight. I got the essence of what he was saying: Don't let job, money, and position be our only drivers... Take time to enjoy life. I have since acted on his advice and try to pursue work-life balance that has been positive.
Why tell stories
Story telling is as old as time. It’s essential to human identity.
We all have stories. Sharing them is rewarding. They have a way of taking our listeners on a journey that can change how they think, feel or act.
You want to tell stories for a variety of reasons. Stories can:
- Explain to a person how he or she might change or improve.
- Compel a person to draw inspiration and to take actions.
- Turn someone into an interesting person. And, who doesn’t want to be interesting?
- Create connections on an emotional level -- the level of connection is proportional to the level of self-disclosure.
- Allow a person to gain recognition and create followers or fans.
- Persuade someone to support your idea or project.
- Fuel innovation and creative thinking.
- Heal, inspire, and empower a person or group that is facing challenges.
- Raise awareness of a cause.
- Provide support and encouragement to a person searching for solutions.
In the age of information overload, we cannot be heard above the noise unless we are telling stories.
Stories create sticky memories in those listening to you. We all learn and change from hearing stories that strike a chord in our soul regardless of our culture or heritage. Stories help you to be remembered!
What to say and how
Say something personal, it will stay with your audience – an instance where your failures led to success, or a lesson that you learned from a parent, relative or friend.
You need just to describe what was happening to you at the time it happened without necessarily adding opinions. Focus on events or situations, a struggle or challenge, people involved, and lessons learned. You should not be the hero!
You can also talk about how you envision the future. Paint a picture in graphic terms.
Make your listeners visualize scenes or pictures – a sequence of events conveyed in the proper order. Don’t go on detours. Provide vivid details, not facts. What was the context? What did it look like? What was happening? Who was there? What did they say? What did you say? What was the outcome? Keep that for the last so it does not spoil the narrative.
Include emotions to make a story compelling and show your vulnerability. That is the best and most powerful way of making a connection with our listeners as they stay with us and live through the situation that you are describing. Your listeners’ mirror neurons will make them feel those emotions too.
When we experience empathy, our brains release oxytocin, the bonding chemical which leads to feelings of connection and trust. It's sometimes known as the "cuddle hormone" or the "love hormone," because it is released when people snuggle up or bond socially.
And, when we experience an emotion, our brains release the hormone dopamine, which helps with information processing and aids memory.
So, if you want people to trust you more and remember what you said, include emotions in your story!
Stories are told not read
Therefore, consider telling yours in an audio or video clip. TalkToShare.com offers a way for you to include your stories in your profile.
You can make an audio recording on your computing device and then upload it directly to your public folder accessible via “Create content and build my brand” button in your dashboard. Or, you can make a video recording, save on YouTube, and then upload the video URL to the public folder.
If, however, you feel more comfortable writing your story, you can do so and also upload it to your public folder as an MSWord or PDF document.
When another person gets matched with you and wants to connect, he or she will get a chance to see your profile in your communication request. They will hear your stories and remember you.