Stories. It took me more years than I’d like to admit to realize that we all have a story to tell. And I’m not talking about the “happily ever after” type of story, although I sure do hope you have one of those to tell as well for your life. But I’m talking about the rough life stories. The ones about the difficulties that you overcame in your life or business. The stories that you might feel hesitant to tell because there are difficult emotions all wrapped up in them.
I’m talking about those stories.
If you’re an adult, running your own business, I believe it’s safe to assume that you have at least one of those stories to tell. In fact, I bet a story from your life came to mind as you read the first paragraph.
These rough life stories are the ones that help define us and shape our lives. For many coaches, therapists or helping professionals, it’s the reason you decided to do the work that you do. It was a turning point in life.
Here are a few story examples:
- The girl that came out of an abusive relationship with not a penny to her name who learned to see her worth and value. Now she doesn’t want any other woman to live through the experiences that she went through. She has a passion for helping women get out of abusive relationships so they can thrive.
- The guy who was teased all through his childhood for being the “fat kid” who decides as an adult to take matters into his own hands. He takes the first step to live a healthier lifestyle and then his confidence starts to grow as he sees the success he’s having and the things he’s achieving. He gets super passionate about helping others gain confidence through a healthy lifestyle.
- The woman who struggled to find a financial advisor that would take her seriously as a young professional. The ones she did work with either took advantage of the situation or did little to educate her even though she wanted to understand her own finances. After a while, she took matters into her own hands, learned all about personal finance, became a Certified Financial Planner, and now works with other young professionals to provide them the service she couldn’t find herself.
- The guy who grew up struggling with mental health disorders. As an adult, he finds purpose and drive as a speaker sharing his own story in order to help others.
These are the stories that need to be told in your business but they’re also the stories that so many professionals struggle to share.
Why do we hesitate to share our stories?
I believe there are a few different reasons we shy away from sharing our own stories with others.
It’s much easier for most of us to share our success stories. It’s a lot more fun to tell the stories of all the things that go right for us. But admitting the failures and low times that we’ve experienced in life is hard. It can hurt our pride.
We don’t want others to hear that we didn’t always have everything figured out. We don’t want to share about those days when the income didn’t cover the bills or the marriage fell apart or the business went belly up.
It’s hard to admit those things. Especially when we’re trying to run a successful business and win the trust and confidence of our clients. We don’t want to scare them away by sharing things that might make them think twice about who we are as a person. Or at least that’s how we think of it.
2. We were trained to keep business and personal separate
I think this stereotype is starting to go away, but I’m an older millennial and I still struggle with it. We were trained to keep business and personal separate. I mean even when people started having cell phones for work they would carry one phone for work and one for personal use. Some people still have to do this.
But the lines have started to disappear.
People know that there are humans behind the companies they’re doing business with. It was already happening but COVID and remote work definitely propelled this forward. It’s not uncommon for pets or children to interrupt work meetings now because many are working from home.
And I have to admit that I love this change. I was working remotely and homeschooling my kids for a few years before it became the thing that everyone was doing. But before March of 2020 I felt extreme pressure to make sure that “life” didn’t interrupt my work calls. Now everyone is understanding and compassionate about when it happens. And I love seeing the human side of my clients during our calls—the cat that jumps up looking for attention or the excited child that bursts into the room. We’re all humans.
3. We don’t think our stories matter to others
We think that people don’t care but in reality, it’s our defining stories that can help people connect with us. They show that we’re real. And no matter how hard we all try to hide it, we’ve all had those difficult moments in life and they’re what help connect us together as people.
Think about it for a minute. Wouldn’t you rather get financial advice from someone who has been in your shoes before, can relate with you, and worked themselves into a better situation? Wouldn’t you rather take marriage advice from the couple that hit rock bottom and had to fight to turn things around and have a successful marriage? Wouldn’t you rather get advice on overcoming anxiety from someone that has had first hand experience with it?
Why? Because hearing people’s stories make them relatable. I’d much rather get help from someone that knows what it’s like to be in my place. For me, it builds an instant connection and trust. If I’ve experienced something similar then there is something that ties us together.
How to share your story
So, you know you have a story to tell, you know it’s important to share in order to build trust with your clients, so how do you get started.
1. Determine what parts of the story matter
Difficult and challenging situations in life are usually pretty messy. Your clients don’t need to know ALL the messy details about what happened. While you want to communicate enough of the story for them to understand that you’ve been there and can empathize with them, you don’t have to let them in on all of it.
It can help to take some time and write your story out. Include as much of it as your comfortable writing about. Remember, this part is only for your eyes.
Then, take a step back and read your story from the perspective of someone else. Ask yourself:
- Which pieces are important to the message I’m trying to communicate?
- What parts of this story matter to my potential clients?
- How much detail needs to be included to paint a good picture without going overboard?
If you get stuck, find a trusted person in your life and have them read through your story and give their perspective on these questions.
2. Practice connecting the dots
If you’re sharing your story for the purpose of helping others and growing your business, you need to make sure the dots connect. While people do enjoy hearing a great story about someone who overcomes a challenge, if it doesn’t makes sense with your business, it doesn’t need to be shared on behalf of your business marketing.
Spend time reviewing the story and finding the lines that connect it to your client’s journey.
- What pain points did you have in common with where your client is currently?
- What steps did you have to take that you help your clients with?
- Why will your client care about your story?
People are smart, but sometimes they struggle to make the connection between things. You need to share your story in a way that they don’t have to make any effort to connect the dots. As you share your story, you should be doing this for them.
When they finish hearing your story, you want them to think, “Wow, she totally understands what I’m going through. I can feel comfortable working with her because she really gets it.”
3. Decide where you’re going to tell your story
There are many choices on how you can share your story. You might want to include some of your story within your website copy. You can write a blog post or a series of blog posts, film a video, or break it into snippets to use on social media.
And that’s only the beginning. There are plenty of ways that you can share your story to build trust and authority within your industry.
Get help if you need it
It’s often harder to share your own personal story than it is to share the story of someone else. But taking the step to do it can make a huge impact on the way that others perceive your business and what you’re able to do to help them.
If you need help telling your story or seeing how it fits into your marketing plan, work with a content strategist that can guide you through the process. You can also work with a ghost writer that can help transform the details you share into a carefully crafted story that connects with your audience.
If you’re a helping professional (mental health professional or coach) and need help telling your story, schedule a call today to explore how I can help.