Flash forward to the next class. All of the kids were abuzz, talking about the character they had created. Of the fifteen students, fourteen of them brought in drawings of the character. Each drawing showed what their personality was like and what superpowers they possessed. What about that fifteenth student? She sat quietly in the circle with a look of horror and embarrassment on her face. And she was clutching a shoe box.
Last week I moderated a panel discussion on developing your personal brand. There was a lot of debate amongst the panelists and audience members regarding how much we share from our personal lives when in a professional setting. Should you have two Instagram account? (My intern recently told me about FINSTA vs. RINSTA, and my mind was blown.) Do we stay buttoned up - both on the inside and outside - and keep our hobbies, passions, and feelings at bay?
Here’s my philosophy. Meld the professional with the personal. Be yourself and use storytelling as your guide. Here are six ways that crafting your personal narrative will help you professionally.
Storytelling is the future.
In Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, she says this:
For three days I sat and watched some of the most amazing and provocative talks that I've ever seen. After each talk, I slumped a little lower in my chair with the realization that in order for my talk "to work" I'd have to give up trying to do it like everyone else and I'd have to connect with the audience. I desperately wanted to see a talk that I could copy or use as a template, but the talks that resonated the most strongly with me didn't follow a format, they were just genuine. This meant I'd have to be me.
Though she is speaking about TEDTalks and that style of public speaking that people often feel the need to replicate or imitate, we wholeheartedly agree with her sentiment. And we think that Toastmasters leads to a need to make it “work”. Templates don’t work. Authenticity does.
I work out five times a week. I’m not sharing this fun fact to brag or because there’s a correlation between physical exercise and storytelling. I’m telling you this because my exercise routine exposed a huge roadblock in the way that I communicate.
I go to an exercise studio on the 4th floor of an office building. The lobby is tiny with not too much foot traffic. The elevators are slow and I usually have a good five minutes of waiting for one to arrive. Peter is the front desk associate. He’s in his 50’s or 60s and is always smiling and says “Hi, how are you today?” In most situations, this question prompts me to launch into a story of how my day has actually been and then inviting a story a return.
We all have a story. What’s yours?
This phrase lives on the front page of Peter Zook’s website. Peter is a licensed social worker with a clinical concentration and specialization in mental health. He runs his own therapy practice in Philadelphia.
I run a storytelling organization, so of course I was drawn to this phrase when scrolling down his home page. But the main source of my intrigue came not from the story nerd within, but the thought: What does storytelling have to do with therapy?