It matters how I tell the story…
In live, embodied moments together, those thoughts on conversation are important: bring your whole self to the conversation, if you wish to communicate effectively. Be present with a relaxed and open posture. Be present with a voice speaking truly, with feeling. Be present with your heart and mind attuned to your audience and what they need from you.
Shape your story with coherent structure and form. Straight prose, or poetry, or with a koala, whose friends kangaroo, cockatoo, platypus and wombat sit beside her in her depression. (Blue, Koala?)
Practice the story, so even if you read your crafted version of it, you can speak it with confidence and clarity, which will help your listeners connect.
Be prepared to adapt the story, and to leave parts of it out, if a concise version is all the moment needs. Remember, it’s not about you. Sometimes, you need to take the time the story needs, and sometimes, you need to leave out your favourite bit, because time is needed for other things.
… and it matters why you are telling your story
As I mentioned in Lesson 1, Michelle Obama tells her story in Becoming because she recognises that from the position she occupies in her communities, especially the African American community of Southside Chicago, she can speak encouragement and hope through her story for others. Her story shows what a loving family can give to a growing child; her story shows what determination can help you achieve; her story shows what a difference you can make when you listen to your heart and your community and let your passion meet the needs of others; her story shows what vulnerability enables – connection, relationship, the possibility of working together towards positive change. I did not get the impression from listening to Michelle Obama read Becoming that she was telling her story for her own gain or to stroke her own ego. I felt an authentic desire from her to tell her story because she is grateful for it and the people who populate it, and because she would love to hear more stories like it, of African American women embracing education, following their dreams, and creating positive change in the world.
Brené Brown tells stories of her own experiences to challenge us not to put her on the pedestal of ‘most daring leader’. She insists we see her as she is, learning along with the rest of us, and my goodness, I trust her leadership all the more for that, I can tell you. Much as I occasionally feel the disappointment that she refuses to be our guru, those who want to learn from her, ultimately I don’t want someone who claims to have arrived and found all the answers. I want to be guided, taught, led, by someone one who is an insatiable learner, generously committed to sharing what she learns with others to encourage and equip their growing into wholeheartedness and well-being.