On March 21, 2013 I spoke at my first ever Sisters U meeting. (That's me in the pink shirt!) It was a really big moment for me, the first time I was giving a speech outside of work or a Toastmasters meeting. But what made it even more significant is that it was an introduction to a group that is all about sharing stories, as envisioned by our amazing founder Karen.
There's something really special that happens when someone gets in front of a room and shares a part of their story. They become vulnerable. They become brave. They connect with others. They inspire.
My desire to help people tell their stories started long ago. I taught high school English right when I got out of college, and reading their personal writing in papers and journals allowed me the opportunity to peek through a window into students' souls. It was absolutely powerful, and helping students develop the courage to share a part of themselves in writing was my favorite element of teaching.
Then when I worked as a staffing firm recruiter, I often coached people on their resumes and interviewing skills. I'd interview someone who'd say, "I've only ever worked in a restaurant. I don't have much experience." My response? "Yes, but you were a hostess, right? Did you ever work on a busy Saturday night on a holiday? Of course! And did you effectively manage the wait, which often meant dealing with disgruntled guests?" They'd say yes, and I'd help them see how valuable that experience was and together we'd find effective ways to portray that on a resume and in an interview. It was all about telling their career story.
When I joined Creative Restaurant Solutions, I conducted exit interviews for a living - and now lead a team of people who do that. I was surprised at how taking down the details of each person's work experience allowed me to find common themes in the human experience. Asking good follow-up questions enabled me to help each interviewee better share their story and talking to so many different people helped me see how I wanted to tell my own story.
At Toastmasters, I loved seeing how people leaned in when I'd switch from sharing facts to sharing a story. Even more, I loved seeing how others would stumble at the start of an impromptu speaking contest, but then find their voice as soon as they started talking about their own experiences or something that mattered to them. When people share something personal, the ums and uhs disappear. They gain confidence as they go.
And at Sisters U, I have witnessed countless "Me too!" moments as people connect with other's stories. We laugh, we cry, we learn, we connect, we think about things differently than we had before. If I hadn't heard someone share her struggles with mental illness on that March 2013 night, I'm not sure I would have gone on to seek help in therapy, or even acknowledged that I too was struggling with depression. I thought I would be the one doing the inspiring that night, but instead I was inspired.
Share your story. You'll learn something about yourself. And you just might teach someone else something as well.
Photo by Heart and Soul Portraits