The ‘Appropriateness’ of Sharing Personal Stories

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  • March 09, 2012

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The idea of sharing a personal story and thereby revealing ourselves as entrepreneurs can be easier said than done.

A lot of entrepreneurs are concerned about becoming ‘unprofessional’ by being too personal in a business context. Mixing business with stories that evoke ‘feelings’ can be seen as self-indulging and socially inappropriate,… or brilliant, depending on how you look at it…

Remember, early in her career, Oprah got fired for being too emotionally invested in her news reporting.

This is really about each of us, and our willingness to be uncomfortable when sharing ourselves.

For me, some stories are hard to share because I’m concerned what others will think. Even the success stories can fall into this category—I’ve felt concerned that people will think I’m a narcissist if I share about something I am proud of.

For those who worry about privacy, here’s what helps me. There’s a difference between‘personal’ and ‘private’. Personal may still feel challenging, but if you can grow your capacity to be with some discomfort, I can tell you from experience, the rewards are worth it.

Emotion is powerful. Sharing our stories is a way to get into our own hearts. And infusing business with a little more of this sort of emotional magic dust wouldn’t be such a bad thing, would it?

Here’s an example from one of our clients, Cara Jones, sharing her story.

No need to push yourself way beyond your comfort zone. I recommend practicing sharing your story with friends and asking them the impact. You might be surprised by their response.

Don’t forget, there are hundreds of stories we each could tell from our lifetime that ARE relevant to our work. A story about resilience for a sales team can be a throw back to a little-league baseball game, where it all came down to one moment and we, the underdog, came through.

A story to convey the importance of presence for managers could be about a weekend we had with a grandparent, where we hurried away to hang out with our friends, even though a little voice whispered that they might not be around much longer for one last embrace.

These little moments are full of feeling. They are like bridges we can share to help people feel what we feel. As social creatures, we live for this stuff—it’s why we love movies, because we get to feel through the story of a character, outside of our own experience.

Perhaps there’s a tad more room for all of us to share more of ourselves in general. Why should the context of business be any different?