In a previous role as a Financial Adviser, I joined a Business for Breakfast club where we would meet every other Friday morning at 6am to share potential leads with each other. These clubs are run all over the country, with only one representative from each industry allowed in each club to eliminate any competition. We would take turns giving a 30 second pitch about our business and what we offered. The quality of the pitch was reflected in how easily the other members understood the services or product that each person had to offer and therefore think of potential clients to refer to them. There would also be time at the beginning and the end just to chat and get to know each other better. The first time I attended one of these clubs I felt pretty intimidated. Everyone seemed to have this air of confidence about them. I was in my early 20s, and, being Chinese, probably looked ten years younger than that. I spent a year honing my professional communication skills in this setting, working on all the little details of my pitches, on how to build rapport and mutual respect with professionals from various backgrounds. I can honestly say that I didn’t enjoy it all that much, mainly because of the need to get up at 5am. But I did enjoy the rewards, which were not so much the business I got from it, but the skills I developed.
I learned to be able to tell my story, but more significantly, as I now realize, I also learned how to let other people tell theirs. In addition to the breakfast club I also attended networking events where up to 200 working professionals would gather to try to sell their service or business. Again, for the most part this was not fun for me, but this time it was not because it was early (they were held in the afternoon), but because it pushed me out of my comfort zone every week, to approach or be approached by strangers, attempting to strike up a conversation with the sole aim of doing business.
Here’s what I learned from my experiences: · Not everybody knows how to tell their story
· Some people are not interested in your story, and even if they are, some people are so bad at listening, that they might as well not be interested in your story
· Some people tell their story out of self importance Here’s what I mean by story. Your story is a reflection of you. Anytime you tell someone about yourself you’re sharing your story. It doesn’t have to be your whole story. It could be about your job or your hobbies, your relationships or your week. It’s all a part of your story. Just like a bedtime story though, you should make every effort to learn how to tell your story well. You just never know what may come of it.
Even though the aim of my work examples above was to source new business, you don’t actually need to have an aim. The reason you should be motivated to tell your story well is simply because your story is worth sharing. Full stop. No matter what the plot is, what chapter you’re on, whether you’re just beginning or nearing the end, it’s worth telling. Don’t be put off by unwelcoming ears. Don’t be discouraged by those that judge you. Don’t let others push you back.
I absolutely 100% believe that everybody has a powerful, beautiful and inspiring story to tell. I have no doubt that everybody I have met and everybody I will meet can impact me. Unfortunately some people feel their story is not worth telling. This could be because they have been discouraged in the past, maybe by people who were too self-centered to care. Or maybe they were just not very good at listening. I’ll say it now – listening well is a very hard skill to master. One of the reasons why is because we express ourselves through our own filter of the world. We use words and body language to get our message across but it’s still a watered down version of exactly how we feel and see and think in our mind. Therefore when we listen, we’re almost trying to figure out what the other person is trying to say, more than what they actually say. To be a good listener is hard work. It requires concentration and all your senses to be engaged. Well, maybe not smell!
Lastly, if you’re the type of person that knows you’re a good story-teller, then you may face another type of problem: the issue of pride. To keep yourself in check, dig deep and ask for clarity on your motives. It’s usually the people that mostly talk about themselves that are the most insecure. And if it’s not their insecurity, then it’s self-absorption. This is where their world is a small one, so small that they are at the centre of it! You share your story, and they’ll very quickly relate it back to themselves.
We’re all going to be in one of the categories above, and sometimes, depending on where we are intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, we may recognize that we move from one to another. The challenge is not only to be aware of where we’re at, but also to identify where those closest to us are at as well, so we can lend a loving helping hand.