See how easily you can tell and receive better stories with this one simple trick

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print

Think for a sec­ond about the sto­ries you hear and tell at work. They’re all around you—in email mes­sages, let­ters, con­ver­sa­tions, and meet­ings. Some­times they’re awful. Some­times they’re help­ful. Do you wish they were bet­ter?

Privileging the sender

When peo­ple think of sto­ry­telling, they’re often mes­mer­ized by the TELLING part. Either some­one is good, or their not.

When we focus our atten­tion too much on the TELLING part of sto­ries, we give too much cred­it to the sender or the speak­er of the sto­ry. I don’t know about you, but when I’m lis­ten­ing to sto­ries, I’m think­ing, pro­cess­ing, ques­tion­ing, and engag­ing with the oth­er per­son sharing—even if they’re not in the same room with me! It’s not about the sender, it’s about my ques­tions and my sto­ry.

Test your­self: have you ever laughed at a movie, email, text mes­sage, gif, or book? If yes, you’ve processed and engaged with a sto­ry with­out the “sto­ry-teller” being the room. This is why I’m not sat­is­fied with the word “sto­ry­telling” or “telling sto­ries.” It priv­i­leges the sender (the teller) too much and doesn’t val­ue or acknowl­edge the active lis­ten­er or read­er involved.

Story SHARING

Because sto­ry­telling gives too much pow­er one per­son, I want to pro­pose a change in sto­ry vocab­u­lary. We should start using the phrase sto­ry shar­ing to describe what hap­pens when we exchange sto­ries or “take in” sto­ries from oth­ers.

Sto­ryshar­ing” is what makes us unique­ly human. Experts in the craft Shawn Coyne and Jonathan Gottschall explain that sto­ries are what sep­a­rate humans from ani­mals. We are the only species whose atten­tion and lifestyle is dri­ven by the sto­ries we hear, tell, and long to make hap­pen.

I’m not talk­ing about the next great Amer­i­can Nov­el or a high­ly cre­ative “glob­al sto­ry” with a per­fect plot. I’m inter­est­ed in the con­ver­sa­tions that hap­pen at the din­ner table. News shared in the break room. The dia­logue hap­pen­ing after a great week­end or vaca­tion.

Many of us are “sto­ry think­ing” all the time. We’re on the look out for good sto­ries to pass along. We are appalled and worked up by the neg­a­tive sto­ries we can’t seem to escape.

Give good stories

If you’re like me and want to hear more and bet­ter sto­ries from peo­ple, you must embrace that get­ting bet­ter sto­ries starts with you. Hear­ing bet­ter sto­ries from humans in your life starts with demon­strat­ing or shar­ing the kind of sto­ries you like to hear, and stay­ing con­sis­tent. In oth­er words, to get good sto­ries, you have to GIVE good sto­ries con­sis­tent­ly.

[share­able cite=“Josh Mitchell”]To get good sto­ries, you have to GIVE good stories.[/shareable]

When peo­ple see or think about you, they’re going to match a spe­cif­ic kind of sto­ry they know you like to hear, read, or watch. If you hate neg­a­tive sto­ries—but share them all the time—you may find peo­ple are like­ly to share neg­a­tive sto­ries with you, since that’s what you’re known for.

Change your story if you want to get better stories

Change your sto­ry. Do you want to be known as the guy or girl who’s always com­plain­ing about the weath­er and traf­fic? Stop talk­ing about the stuff you don’t want to hear about.

Share something positive and solution-focused

Shar­ing neg­a­tive sto­ries is easy. Any­one can point out what is wrong with the world and what needs to be changed at your com­pa­ny or work­place. New research from Har­vard Busi­ness Review shows that shar­ing neg­a­tive sto­ries impacts your hap­pi­ness and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty: “Indi­vid­u­als who watched just three min­utes of neg­a­tive news in the morn­ing had a whop­ping 27% greater like­li­hood of report­ing their day as unhap­py six to eight hours lat­er com­pared to the pos­i­tive con­di­tion.”

HBR rec­om­mends turn­ing off news alerts, sched­ule moments of silence, and con­sum­ing pos­i­tive media like Huff­in­g­ton Post’s Impact series or CNN’s new impact series. I rec­om­mend check­ing out Great Big Sto­ry.

Listen to others with your eyes if you want to resonate

When you are shar­ing sto­ries, you’ll find that oth­ers respond with sto­ries of their own or some­thing that relates. When this hap­pens, lis­ten with your eyes. Research shows that eyes are the win­dow to the soul: “You can pre­dictably tell someone’s emo­tions from their gaze”.

If you want your sto­ry to res­onate deeply with anoth­er per­son, “eye con­tact is the cru­cial first step for res­o­nance, a term psy­chol­o­gists use to describe a person’s abil­i­ty to read some­one else’s emo­tions. It’s also impor­tant for cre­at­ing a feel­ing of con­nec­tion.” (When Giv­ing Crit­i­cal Feed­back, Focus on Your Non­ver­bal Cues)

Use your eyes, but don’t be creepy

Research from psy­chol­o­gist and author, Dr Jere­my Dean shows that eye con­tact isn’t always a good thing. “When some­one stares at you, with­out the con­text it can be dif­fi­cult to know if they love you or want to kill you. A long look dis­plays an intense feel­ing, but on its own you can’t tell which one. That’s one of the great mys­ter­ies of body lan­guage: so much depends on con­text.”

Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ence shows evi­dence that too much eye con­tact might pro­voke resis­tance to per­sua­sion. This is because eye con­tact can tend to sig­nal dom­i­nance. So when shar­ing sto­ries, stay hum­ble and give the right kind of eye con­tact.

Recap

  1. Share sto­ries. Don’t just tell oth­er peo­ple your sto­ries, antic­i­pate an exchange of sto­ries and active­ly engage. Be a sto­ryshar­er.
  2. Share pos­i­tive sto­ries. There is already enough trou­ble in today to take care of itself. Take time to find a good sto­ries worth shar­ing, rather than the easy way out. This will increase your pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and mood…and the mood and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of oth­ers!
  3. Change your sto­ry. If you don’t like the sto­ries peo­ple are shar­ing with you, change the sto­ries you share. You’ll more like­ly start hear­ing bet­ter sto­ries from the peo­ple around you.
  4. Lis­ten with your eyes. Want your sto­ry to res­onate? It turns out that eyes are the win­dow to the soul and eyes are what lead to bet­ter res­o­nance.
  5. Give the right amount of eye con­tact. Too much of the wrong eye con­tact will demon­strate dom­i­nance and an inten­si­ty you may not mean to share.

[reminder]What kind of sto­ries do you like to share?[/reminder]

Share this post

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on email
Email
Share on print
Print

You might also like...

Free Home Delivery Service

Get research-based articles sent directly to your email inbox: the modern home delivery service. 
Your time and attention is valuable and we promise never to spam. Unsubscribe any time.