Storytelling: A Story of Self, a Story of Us, and a Story of Now
When sharing a story of self, i.e. a personal story, you share a part of yourself with others that is real and authentic. This sharing of your “most generous self” (in Ariel parlance) allows others to connect with you, the “individual” and often establishes a sense of common ground and/or shared experience that goes way beyond any relationship with you in your “role.”
I watched the documentary, Budrus the other night—a story about an on-going non-violent protest movement on the West Bank of the Palestinian Territories. I have lived in a number of countries in the Middle East and worked in Jerusalem, specifically in Mount Scopus one of the demilitarized “no man’s land” zones established in 1948 ceasefire agreement along the border of East Jerusalem, and the focus for part of the documentary. The film had a real resonance with people and places I knew and cared for, on both sides of the divide.
As an added bonus, the film’s Director, Julia Bacha was there to attend the talk-back that followed, along with a student from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Both he and Julia spoke about public narrative, and specifically the work of Marshall Ganz, a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Kennedy School.
It was a serendipitous confluence of so many aspects of my life – current and past – that I am still glowing this morning.
Professor Ganz in his 2008 article “What is Public Narrative?” writes:
“Practicing leadership – enabling others to achieve purpose in the face of uncertainty – requires engaging the heart, the head, and the hands: motivation, strategy, and action. Through narrative we can articulate the experience of choice in the face of urgent challenge and we can learn how to draw on our values to manage the anxiety of agency, as well as its exhilaration. It is the discursive process through which individuals, communities, and nations make choices, construct identity, and inspire action. Because we use narrative to engage the “head” and the “heart,” it both instructs and inspires – teaching us not only how we ought to act, but motivating us to act – and thus engaging the “hands” as well.”
He goes on to explain:
“…public narrative is composed of three elements: a story of self, a story of us, and a story of now. A story of self communicates who I am – my values, my experience, why I do what I do. A story of us communicates who we are – our shared values, our shared experience, and why we do what we do. And a story of now transforms the present into a moment of challenge, hope, and choice.”
At Ariel, storytelling is a central leadership competence we develop in many of our programs, not only because it connects messages to the “head” and the “heart”, but also because it is a powerful tool for building a relationship with the audience, whether an audience of one or many.
When sharing a story of self, i.e. a personal story, you share a part of yourself with others that is real and authentic. This sharing of your “most generous self” (in Ariel parlance) allows others to connect with you, the “individual” and often establishes a sense of common ground and/or shared experience that goes way beyond any relationship with you in your “role.” This connection with you the individual helps to build trust, a key component of relationship-building and by default, a key element of successful leadership.
At Ariel, we have a relatively simple formula for telling a story in a business context that resonates with the framework of public narrative, and helps to build trust and connect with head and heart:
The Ariel Formula for Business Storytelling
1. State the business context
“We are meeting today to talk about the recent public accusation of …”
2. Segue to the story
“But before I do that, let me tell you a story.”
3. Tell the story
“As a teenage girl, I…”
4. State what you learned
“What I learned from this experience…”
5. State what we can learn
“What we can learn from this experience…”
6. Connect to the business challenge
“So, as we face this public accusation…”
“A story of self, a story of us, and a story of now” – a powerful skill of leadership that allows any leader to connect with the “head” and “heart” of her or his audience.