“Tell your story…”
Those are the faded words that begin with each new draft on Medium. It seems pretty basic and thoughtless. Yet what underlies the three words is an important concept: we are at our best when we shamelessly and openly share our authentic stories AND when we listen intently and empathetically to others tell their authentic stories.
We forget that second part quite often. I do too. We’re already thinking through our response or our own counter-story before the person across from us has even finished speaking. If we want people to value our thoughts, opinions, and beliefs, we have to do the same thing for others without preemptively placing our own baggage and expectations on their words.
You can not learn while you are speaking.
You can not grow without getting outside of yourself.
You can not…always think of a third emphatic statement to write to feel cool and cater to the power of three.
I recently gave a best man’s speech at my best friend’s wedding. I had been crafting it for a few months and I thought I had something that was pretty good. Some decent punchlines, soft jabs at the groom, the normal things that should be included. Then four days before the wedding in reading it out over and over again, I realized there was something missing. I wasn’t telling people anything they didn’t already know. I wasn’t telling them a real story.
So I scratched it and added an entirely new segment to the speech. A close personal story that almost nobody knew about except for the groom and I. It was a story that was a low-point for me and a high-point for him. It was emotional, but it was real and it cut to the real truth about who he was as a guy, as a friend, and who he is going to be as a husband. Jimmy Valvano said it the best -
“If you think, you laugh, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day.”
Our stories should try and fulfill that to the best of our ability. Likewise we should open ourselves to experiencing those three things when others tell their stories without shame, without invulnerability, and without judgment. No fluff, no BS, just a willingness to engage in what makes us humans at the most basic level…telling our stories.