Think of someone you really like to spend time with. What makes that person interesting? They may be encouraging, funny, or smart, but I bet the people you like to be around can tell really good stories.
Maybe this is obvious, but the greatest way to connect with people is by telling stories. Spewing out facts and figures is the quickest and surest way to cause your audience to disconnect with what you’re saying (or put them to sleep). I don’t know why, but as people we are wired to connect with stories, and this affects everything in our lives. Seth Godin, an author/blogger/genius that I love to read/follow said this in his blog today:
Your position on just about everything, including, yes, your salary, your stock options, your credit card debt and your mortgage are almost certainly based on the story you tell yourself, not some universal fact from the universal fact database.
The truth is that stories matter. What you tell yourself matters, and how you communicate to others matters. (But that’s a fact not a story and doesn’t really prove the point.) Even when I write blogs, I seem to get more views when I’m telling stories than when I’m writing facts or thoughts. I’m not sure what that says about me… Maybe I should just shut up and get to it.
When I was four or five, I was outside of our house swimming in one of those flexible-walled fill-up pools that only holds about two feet of water. I remember I was doing what is pretty much the only thing you can do in one of those things, swimming (if you can call it that) around in circles. I didn’t notice the fairly large bee that had landed in the pool and was desperately and damply attempting to buzz his way out of the water. The bottom of my foot interrupted this attempt, causing him to react by implanting his stinger into my tender little arch. I screamed. Loudly.
I remember going inside. I remember I was crying. There were lots of people around, and one of my aunts took baking soda and and water and made a paste in a green plastic cup. This was applied to my foot to stop the stinging. I don’t remember if it helped, but the memory has been with me for a long time. It’s the first sting I remember getting and one of the earliest clear memories I have.
I think this is why stories are so powerful. Stories ignite the imagination and put visual thoughts in our memory banks that stay with us. I couldn’t tell you the facts like how old I was exactly, what kind of bee it was, or if the baking soda remedy was the right decision. But I can tell you that it makes me careful when I see a bee, especially one that lands in the water. That’s my story and it’s a part of who I am.
The beautiful thing is that everyone has a story to tell. Who knows what kind of effect the story will have on people, but chances are it will stick with them and make an impression. So take a chance and tell your story. It will matter to someone, if no one else it will matter to you because it brings you back to things in life that have shaped you. It’s a system that Jesus seemed to endorse, maybe that should tell us something.