Sharing Your Personal Story #LikeaBoss [VIDEO]
Have you ever been asked this dreaded, open-ended interview question?
“So, tell me about yourself!”
While your first inclination might be to read off our resume and walk through all the jobs you’ve ever held, this makes for an incredibly boring conversation.
There’s a much better formula to follow to share your story in a way that fosters real connection and inspires others to take action.
First I need to give credit where credit is due. Most of today’s content has been adapted from the work of Marshall Ganz, a Harvard Professor and lifelong political organizer who I studied with as a Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government. You can find more about Marshall Ganz and his work at www.leadingchangenetwork.org.
Now when you’re in a job interview, or sitting down for a one-on-one networking meeting, or you’re getting up in front of an audience to make a speech, you’re best off starting by explaining who the heck you are and answering the implicit question:
Why should I be listening to you?
Sharing your personal story establishes credibility and relatability because it explains why you care, and why your audience should, too. It provides important context for the rest of your conversation, and when done right, it leaves your counterpart(s) feeling receptive and open to the rest of what you have to say.
Here’s how to Share Your Personal Story in a way that fosters connection and inspires action:
1.Tell me a Story!
This means a narrative format – with a beginning, middle, and end. Take me on a journey with you!
I want to hear details – vivid descriptions of where you were and how you felt – so I feel like I can be there with you.
Please don’t rattle off your resume and list of job positions you’ve had in chronological order since the dawn of time. That list format is boring and it doesn’t actually tell me anything about your values.
2. Show me some struggle!
In all great stories, the main character faces a challenge, makes a choice, experiences an outcome, and learns a lesson.
It’s challenge, choice, outcome, lesson.
Use that formula to guide you in thinking back to a choice moment in your life that tested your values. When you walked away from that job. When you chose to speak up, despite being afraid. When you started something new, because it had to be done.
.And remember, you want to choose the challenge strategically, so it’s relevant to your conversation at hand.
When you share vulnerably in this way, and get candid about the struggles you’ve overcome, you’re more human and more authentic. You allow us to see ourselves in you. And that creates a sense of connection.
I could talk forever about the research behind the link between vulnerablity and connection, but Brene Brown tackles that topic better than anyone else. If you’ve somehow missed her TED talk on the subject, do yourself a favor and watch it now.
3. Invite me in!
Wrap up your personal story with a connection to all of us. Bring me, your audience, into the picture, by connecting your story to a broader, collective narrative. A broader story that’s told about “us.”
Now, “us” in this case, can mean many different things. “Us” could be people of Latino descent, women, Americans, people focused on career transition, people who are obsessed with their dogs, whatever. Who are your people? Who is the “us” in the room with you?
Think about your audience and what characteristics and values you share. Tie your own tale to the broader story by using bridging phrases like, “I think many of us have faced moments…” or “I don’t know if you’ve ever found yourself at a crossroads like this…”.
By sharing your personal story in this way, you demonstrate your values through a real choice moment you’ve faced along the way, and you not only invite others into the picture, you leave them wanting to take action and join you.
Download today’s corresponding worksheet here and start crafting your personal story for the next time you want to share, inspire, and connect with others, too.
And if you feel as blown away as I did when I first learned about these strategies, share this post now with the folks in your life who you think could benefit.