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DIY Drama Queen: a Cop, 2 Boots and a Homeless Guy

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Tell Your Old Story in Today’s Conversation

E933KL97LPPQ8T5E-rszw514-11302012Not so many days ago a New York cop bought some boots for a homeless, shoe-less guy. The photo went viral because it was remarkable—stuff like that doesn’t usually happen. The telling of the story warms the heart and we want to share it.

Communication-types talk endlessly about stories and narrative and narrative arc. All this literary-criticism lingo has made its way from academia through the land of communication and advertising and out into mainstream speech of the news anchor, for instance. Behind all this talk is the simple notion that people respond to stories.

Because people respond to stories, we give assignments to our outward facing employees to snag potential customers and engage clients with precisely those stories that feature our product or service in a key role. Maybe the product saves the situation. Maybe the service is a vehicle of freedom. Certainly the product enriches the identity of the people using it.

But what about inside the company? Where are those engaging narratives in our ordinary, daily conversations? Does story have a place in our workdays? Should it?

One medical device company I worked for held a company-wide meeting around this time of year where patients came on stage and told stunning stories of how they could now walk (or stand or eat or breathe) again. They talked about how their lives were changed by the very products we all worked on.

And we all got weepy.

But ordinary, daily conversations produce no such tears—how could they? We’re all about work and getting stuff done, after all. We’re not here to tell stories. But some smart bosses are telling larger stories. Some meeting leaders are starting with the narrative arc that includes patients being healed and lives restored. Some team members are embedding in their discussion how their product makes it easier to turn solar energy to electricity—and why that has meaning for today’s work. Bringing those stories to the mundane conversations can seem like a cynical, manipulative ploy—but only to those intent on cynicism and manipulation.

It’s time to bring those stories back into our conversations. Not as ploys. Not as manipulative levers. But because of our universal need to make meaning. Especially to make meaning of our daily work.

We’re moving into a season where we tell lots of old stories: When I was a kid Christmas looked like this. When we were first married, we did this for the holiday. Way back when a virgin had a baby. In a stable. And everything changed.

Be the drama queen in your part of your company or organization. Take center stage and demand attention. And tell the remarkable story you heard.

Stories help us make meaning and are worth passing on.

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Image Credit: Politix

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