4 Tips for Sharing Powerful Stories

I’m reading a great book by Bob Goff called ‘Love Does.’ The book focuses on the author’s views of God and Christian spirituality. There is a lot of great material in the book—I highly recommend it.

One of the things I like most about the book is Bob’s stories. In each chapter, Bob leads off with a story that is poignant, humorous, and vulnerable. The story is connected to the main point of the chapter, which Bob briefly explains after he tells his story.

For example, Bob tells a story of how he decided to drop out of high school and move to Yosemite. Before he left, he visited his friend Randy and told him about his plans.

Randy didn’t tell Bob he was being stupid, or try to talk him out of it. Instead, he said, “Bob, I’m with you.”

Randy offered to drive to Yosemite with Bob and help him get settled. So off they went.

The trip didn’t go as planned. They had very little money, so they sneaked into a campsite to find a place to sleep. The next day, Bob visited a ton of places trying to find a job. He struck out each time.

Randy didn’t try to convince Bob to go back home. He just said, “Bob, I’m with you.”

The next couple days were more of the same. Bob tried to find a job, but no one would hire him. After spending the last of his money on gas and dinner, Bob told Randy he thought he would head home and finish high school.

Randy replied, “Man, whatever you decide, just know that either way I’m with you, Bob.”

The lesson of this story was that Randy loved Bob. He saw a need and did something about it. Randy just didn’t say he was with Bob. He was actually present with him. Love is more about presence than about undertaking a project. Love does.

When I put down the book after reading that chapter, I had tears in my eyes. I yearned to experience a closer relationship with God. I felt a renewed energy to refocus my life and truly love the people around me with my presence and actions.

That’s the power of a good story.

See how the story brought the lesson that Bob was trying to communicate to life? The lesson was good, but the story made the lesson come alive.

If you are a writer or speaker, or simply want to become better at communicating, I encourage you to seriously consider the power of story. Think back on your life. Is there a personal story that relates to what you are trying to communicate? What do you think about starting your talk or presentation by telling your story?

Here are a few tips when incorporating story into your communication:

  1. Write down your stories. I believe our lives are full of amazing stories, but we tend to forget them if we don’t write them down. Whenever something happens to you that is humorous, difficult, or troubling, write it down! Keep a journal or notebook to quickly jot down stories as they happen throughout your day. When you need a story, you can look back and find one that fits.
  2. Make your stories personal. I think personal stories are the best, because they do a great job of connecting the speaker or writer to his or her audience. Telling a story about someone else can work, but I don’t think they work as well as personal stories.
  3. Make your stories vulnerable. Sharing your personal stories is difficult because it is vulnerable. You don’t know how people are going to react to your story. They might even judge you for what you share. But I think the more vulnerable your story is, the more people will connect with you and your story.
  4. Don’t shy away from the difficult stories. I think often my tendency is to share stories about my successes. These are easy stories to share. However, I believe the stories that make the most impact are the stories about my failures, my mistakes, and my shortcomings. I think this is because they are more like real life. Real life is usually characterized by struggle—we just don’t often talk about it. By sharing your stories of struggle, you give your audience the freedom to connect with their stories of struggle—and with you.

Discussion: What do you think about the power of stories? How could you incorporate story more into your communications? How do you feel about sharing vulnerably about your struggles?

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2 Responses to 4 Tips for Sharing Powerful Stories

  1. john September 4, 2014 at 7:52 am #

    Let’s give this a try…
    Last night I sat and listened as several people spoke their judgment of me. I mostly didn’t defend myself. I didn’t want to be seen in a bad light. I secretly hoped that the group would see the error of my wife’s thinking and not mine. My shadow of “getting it right” was looming large. There wasn’t lots of beautiful, tear-filled resolution at the end and I left profoundly sad. But I can sit in sadness, it won’t kill me.
    The End.

  2. Josh Hook September 5, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

    John,
    Thanks for sharing. It’s a good truth to know that you can sit with sadness and it won’t kill you. That truth spoke to me. I know for me, I sometimes have a tendency to check out when I start feeling sadness or anxiety, and when I check out I lose an opportunity to reach out and connect with others. My prayer is for comfort and that God will use your story, both in your own work and to help others.

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