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People Who Blend Storytelling In Their Life Live More Awesome

People Who Blend Storytelling In Their Life Live More Awesome

If you can tell a better story about yourself, you will live a better life. I’m living proof of that. Seven years into my marriage, I felt stuck in reverse. My husband and I were living a safe, status quo, all-American story – decent jobs, good kids and a roof overhead. But it failed to satisfy. Deep down we wanted so much more. And that “so much more” had nothing to do with a fat paycheck or a big home in the suburbs – we wanted our lives to be an unfolding adventure in pursuit of things we loved. So we decided to rewrite the script of our lives and invite some adventure in.

It came at a high cost – we quit our jobs, put our house on the market and sold everything in it. We also moved 4,000 miles apart to gain clarity. But the reward has been great – my husband is back in school at the age of 42 while I reinvent myself and my career. We feel fully alive as we live out a story that’s 100 percent authentically our own.

There is so much power in story. If you need help reframing the story of your life but don’t know where to begin, take your cue from The Moth. When it comes to storytelling, they do it best. Here’s why incorporating their techniques will help you gain the guidance you need to walk in your truth.

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1.  You may not have an epic story but no matter how small, it’s significant.

When The Moth storytellers step up to the mic, they assume the air of quiet confidence that everyone has a story worth telling. Yes, there’s the writer who moved to Jerusalem to be a part of the peace process but there’s also the daughter of a stripper who learned some cool life lessons from her free-spirited mother. Every story is worth listening to.

2. You’ll be tempted to give an intro but start with the hook instead.

If your beginning is bad, no one will listen to the end. So make your beginning bold. In my seven years as a radio broadcaster, how I framed my stories changed one day when consultant Tracy Johnson shared, “If you don’t start a story with a good hook, 50 percent of your audience will tune out immediately.” It’s true.

3. You might want to get stuck in the conflict zone but a good story ends with overcoming.

Storyteller extraordinaire Donald Miller says the premise of any good story involves conflict you must overcome, but it’s the end of the story, the overcoming, that truly inspires. Only you have the power to craft that ending. Think through how you want your story to end. The Moth states, “Your last line should be clear in your head before you start.”

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4. Consider this: What would your story sound like if you spoke from an authentic place, forgetting about pleasing your listening audience?

I think you’ll find as you share honestly from the heart, you’ll connect authentically with other people. Storytelling Tip #6 from The Moth is: No standup routines. The world isn’t a stage where you get to be a funnyman sharing your best zingers. The world is a place hungry for people who desire deep connection.

5. Your life is far from perfect but that just means it’s more interesting in scope and depth.

As you rehearse your story “Moth-style,” you’ll hold your own life right up to the light and realize it’s beautiful because of its fractures – not in spite of them. The illusion of perfection is not “Moth-worthy.” Case in point: the story of road rage that landed a new mom in jail. Totally imperfect. But crazy interesting.

6. You need to save your preaching because there’s no “moral of the story.”

The quickest way to make your audience snooze is by talking down to them. It’s insulting and fails to ring with truth. No one has the monopoly on truth. The Moth recently featured a tour guide who confronted racism at work and a man addicted to cookies! They each tell equally compelling stories because we’re all a work in progress on a journey towards wholeness.

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7. You might want to stage your life but you’ve got to go with the flow.

Whether you’re at a networking event or giving a presentation in the boardroom, it helps to have bullet points in your mind to keep you on track, but you need to flex and switch gears if need be. The Moth instructs people to imagine they’re “at a dinner party, not a deposition.” No scripts are allowed at “the Moth.” No papers. No props.

8. You know what you have to gain but what do you have to lose?

A good story comes at a cost. The Moth believes unless your story has some stakes, it’s not worth telling.The most memorable stories involve great risk and the potential for great reward. They involve transformation. Deep emotional truth. Vulnerability. Risking a broken heart. Going for broken to chase a dream.

9. Lighten up a little – life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies but it sure isn’t all bad, either.

Practice gratitude in the little things. Once you pay attention to details you ordinarily overlook in the course of your day, it might wake you up to a full-on flow of a thousand things to be grateful for. Even the darkest story shared on The Moth weaves in humor and moments of levity.

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10. Practice does not make perfect – it makes for perfectly imperfect.

The temptation is always there to memorize line for line to recite a script with a steel-trap memory. But that’s not real, is it? And if something isn’t real, it won’t resonate. I’ve stood onstage after sweating out a speech word-for-word…only to have it fall flat. Why? Because it’s contrived. Should you practice? Absolutely. But don’t spend the bulk of your time manufacturing an image that’s dishonest.

11. Venting is not fuel for a great story – leave your anger out of it.

You’ve got anger issues? So does 99 percent of the population. This fails to intrigue or inspire. If you need to let off steam, call a shrink. Then get back to work on telling a story worth listening to. No one wants to hear a monologue spewing hatred. Most of us can get that by walking down the street. Aim higher for your sake – and everyone else’s.

12. It’s your story – not your friend’s story.

This is Rule #4 for everyone who submits a pitch to The Moth. You don’t get to hijack the stories of your loved ones and pass it off as your own. Have the courage to live your own story and tell it with heart. The greatest weapon you have against self-doubt lies in the narrative you’ll create to communicate your truth. The most powerful story you’ll ever tell is yours and yours alone.

Featured photo credit: El Nariz via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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