I recently took an awesome course about using live video and story-telling as a way to spread your message. I learned a few very important things in taking that course, and I’ve created three story-telling guidelines for myself as a result.
1. Stories are most powerful when they are used as a way to connect with other people.
Sure, stories have other functions. They can be used to teach, to entertain, or to call for help. But within each of those motivations, the underlying purpose should always be to connect with another person.
We’ve all been subjected to stories that present the story-teller in a certain light but don’t create a connection with the audience. They are stories that are interesting to the speaker but not at all interesting to the listeners.
We can also feel when a story creates a love-based connection. And especially, when it doesn’t. I’m talking about stories that are meant to manipulate and create a false connection. Or stories that entertain or create a connection at someone else’s expense.
2. If you are the star of the story, it is your story to tell. (And if you are not…)
I have been in many situations where my family re-tells a story that makes them laugh hysterically but hurts me inside. And even more often, I have been the one laughing without realizing that it might be hurting someone else. It seems obvious now, but I really never saw that perspective before. Part of that came from me thinking that by finding the humor in it, the other person would find it less painful. That’s how I frequently use humor with my own stories. But that is a huge assumption that has caused me to be just plain insensitive.
I’m also guilty of telling someone else’s story. Sure, I might be a secondary character but that doesn’t give me the right to tell it. It’s really not my story to share.
3. Stories should be told with sensitivity and truth.
There is some grey area here. What about stories that teach and connect in a loving way but also have the potential of hurting someone else?
How do we reconcile a situation where we are the star of the story from our own perspective but someone else is the star of the story from where they are sitting?
Do we share a story that is someone else’s story when we are worried about them? I think we’ve all seen the danger in not telling a story just to protect someone or in keeping a story secret based entirely on fear.
Let your heart guide you.
What I have concluded is that we have to be gentle and kind in how we approach stories that fall into the grey areas. We have to make sure that we are sharing true facts and the truth of our heart and mind and not an exaggerated, embellished, creatively revised version of the story.
We also have to make sure that we are telling the story with the intention of creating a loving connection. That’s the most important take home for me.
These wouldn’t be the lessons I learned unless I was guilty of not following each of these guidelines. I’ve bored people. I’ve told a story to create intimacy with someone at someone else’s expense. I’ve told stories just to make me look good. I’ve told stories without considering the effect they would have on others.
Stories are such a compelling way to share yourself. They also allow us to share our messages and there is nothing I want more than to spread the message of love. But the process of spreading that message has to be undertaken in a loving way itself. My intention for these guidelines is to do just that and to honor myself and the people I love within the stories I tell.
As long as we are keeping the purpose of loving connection as our focus, our stories are a great way to share the moments of our lives with others.