Why Everyone Loves a Good Story

Chuck Neighbors in Not The Way I Heard It

“I remember 1965—that was the year there was a riot downtown ….”

“Let me tell you about the snowstorm that I was stuck in….”

“We also had a sick baby and the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong….”

I am learning something about people through my newest presentation, Truth Be Told… from a Guy who Makes Stuff Up. I am learning, or relearning, just how much people connect with personal stories. Normally when I perform one of my dramatic pieces, people talk to me afterwards with comments about the play and how it impacted them. All good stuff. But with “Truth Be Told” the comments are different. This presentation is my telling stories from my life, and people are coming up to me after the presentation and wanting to tell me a story. Sharing a story from my life has triggered a response in them to connect and want to tell their stories.

So what’s happening? Why do people want to tell me their stories? I think there are at least three reasons:

  1. Identification. When I tell my story, people are drawn in because they can relate. There is a certain amount of “been there, done that.” And they listen because they want to see if I did what they did in a similar situation, or how I handled it differently. They relate and connect because we hold certain details and situations in common.
  2. Authenticity. Because they identify with the situation, they are drawn to the truth of the story. I share the story and in a sense relive it before them, bringing all the emotion of the first time. In the process they see that I am a real person, not just a performer. Being authentic breaks down the barrier between speaker and audience, causing them to care about me and the things I care about.
  3. Validation. Because they identify and because of the authenticity of the story they have heard, they now have a sense that their story matters. Being real and vulnerable in the telling of my story has freed them to want to tell their own stories. And because they connected with me through my story, I am the one they want to share it with.

I am finding this to be very encouraging— the sort of response I was hoping for! In our current culture of instant and cyber communication, the sharing of story is at risk–replaced by the instant sharing of information. Not that there is anything wrong with all the social media… but in many ways it can become sort of anti-social. We run the danger of making our lives about the latest status update and in the process lose the art of really talking face to face with people and sharing our stories.

The art of telling your story is for everyone, whether as a performer, pastor, speaker or just a friend in a coffee shop, or sitting in a living room, or around the campfire.

When is the last time you shared a story from your life face to face with someone?

Invite Chuck Neighbors to tell his story and/or host a story workshop for your church or organization.