Everyone Has a Story

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“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” – Orson Welles

Everyone has a story.  But not everyone tells their story.

And we don’t always ask.

Sharing the stories that shaped your life doesn’t make you weak.   It makes you human.

When we share stories of the defining moments in our lives, we connect at a deeper level, beyond roles and goals.

In The Heart-Led Leader: How Living and Leading from the Heart Will Change Your Organization and Your Life, Tommy Spaulding shares how everyone has a story and how vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness.

It’s OK To Be Open, Candid, and Vulnerable

Jodi had high ambitions.   While she achieved her dreams, it was not without extreme challenges, pain, and setbacks along the way.

In the process of sharing her stories, Jodi learned that it’s OK to be human.

Via The Heart-Led Leader:

“In her speech, Jodi had two messages to give the students at the National Leadership Academy.  One was that people are defined by ‘how they respond to adverse circumstances.’  The other was that it’s OK to be open, candid, and vulnerable with others.  ‘I had always felt that you need to appear confident even if you’re not,’ she said.”

Share the Defining Moments of Our Lives

The more Jodi shared her stories, the more she connected.

She was no longer just another successful leader focused on business results.  She was a fellow human being with hopes and dreams and fears like the rest of us.

Via The Heart-Led Leader:

“Jodi told me that she had only started opening up more to others recently, when she began looking for ways to build greater trust with her leadership team, clients, and customers. 

She realized that a shift toward openness, candor, and vulnerability might help

Jodi started talking more about herself with colleagues; she even gave a talk in which she discussed some defining moments in her life from her difficult childhood to her multiple miscarriages.”

Vulnerability Builds Better Relationships

When a leader shows their vulnerable side, it helps others show theirs, too.

When people feel safe to share their vulnerability, things get real.

Via The Heart-Led Leader:

“It was so effective that Jodi schedule a meeting with her 15-person leadership, team, where she asked them to share stories about defining moments in their own lives.

‘The whole group came together and we shared a lot,’ she said.  ‘Since then, I’ve learned so much more about the people who work for me, what matters to them, and what motivates them. 

It has made us a better team.  It helped me to see that by modeling vulnerability, I gave people permission to be vulnerable with me, with each other, and even with their clients.’  As she put it: ‘Vulnerability helps to build relationships.’”

Nobody Knew Her Story

Tommy Spaulding tells the story of a leadership workshop he led, where one of the attendees told her story for the first time.

She was in her sixties.  She had withdrawn from community activities.  Why she withdrew from her philanthropic ventures is the story that others really cared about.

Via The Heart-Led Leader:

“As soon as the words were out of my mouth, this lady broke down crying, which startled everyone in the room.  This wasn’t a quiet cry, with moist eyes or tears trickling down her cheek, but a convulsive cry punctuated by sobs and gasps.

‘Is something wrong?’ I asked her gingerly.

‘It’s just that my husband is now 68 years old and nobody in his family, not his parents nor his siblings, has lived past 70.  I feel like I’m in my last years with him.  He’s been my best friend for four decades and I want to spend as much time as I can with him.  I want to enjoy time with him before it’s too late.  So that’s why I pulled myself back from community activities.  My husband is more important.’

‘Thank you for sharing that with us,’ I told her. ‘We should all be so lucky to have such a strong marriage that we’re still best friends after 40 years.’

The room was silent, and I could tell that no one quite knew how to proceed.  I wanted to take advantage of the emotion of that moment, and so I asked the other people in the room.  ‘How many of you in here knew your colleague’s story before today?’

Not a single person raised a hand.”

Connect in a Deeper Way with Those Around You

How can people relate to you, if you’re above the trials and tribulations that everyone is up against, the personal demons and all?

You can’t.

We’re only human.

Via The Heart-Led Leader:

“’This is an important lesson,’ I said, ‘not only about the power of sharing or of vulnerability, but of the power of knowing the people you work with. 

When you get to know another person in this way, it helps you understand them in a new way.  It’s not about exposing dark secrets–it’s about understand the life events that made people into who they are

When you know that, you start to accept people more unconditionally; you begin to understand what makes them tick. 

And it results in stronger and deeper relationships, personally and professionally.”

People might understand us a little better, if we share a little more.

How many people do you work with or see every day and you don’t know their story?

Everyone has a story.

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