Tell me about yourself.
When you are getting to know someone, the question inevitably comes up. ‘Tell me about yourself’. In response, you could rattle off accomplishments from your CV, share highlights about your family and where you’ve lived, or explain how your day has gone.
My version of this might be:
‘I’m originally from Minnesota, grew up outside St. Paul. After studying at the University of Minnesota I decided I’d had enough of winter and moved to San Diego. I worked for a startup consulting firm for a few years before deciding to go back to school for an MBA…..’
Did your eyes glaze over? That is probably because what I shared is essentially a data dump of my Linkedin profile, one that doesn’t really offer any insight into who I am.
Go deeper using your story.
When your purpose is to connect with another person, the answer can go much deeper. When you want to build a relationship, it is more powerful to share what make you distinctly you, what experiences shaped your perspective on life, your approach in the world.
Real stories evoke emotion and resonate because they capture a common human experience – the feeling of otherness, shame, loss, joy and love. Because everyone feels these things, sharing story creates a moment to relate and a feeling of connection.
Share something real.
What if I had instead said:
‘One of my defense mechanisms is to ‘be strong’ and not show vulnerability. Two years ago, when my sister passed away, this caused me to not ask for support and not let others in while I was grieving. I bottled everything up and distracted myself with work and travel, not really dealing with the loss for over a year’.
My second response is much more likely to spark a real connection with someone. But, to be able to share this, I first had to understand my patterns and the impact they have on my life. It took reflection and owning up to some things I wouldn’t necessarily broadcast on Linkedin.
Eight ways to find your story.
Finding your story is different for everyone, a few ideas to get you started:
Know what matters to you
- Declare your core values: start by picking the top 10, then narrow down to 3 and then 1. Reflect on experiences that contributed to your ranking
- Journal about what is most important to you in different dimensions of your life: work, family, community, wellness, spirituality
- List characteristics you most admire in others and why, reflect on: what character strengths do you have? Which do you desire to build?
- Write yourself a letter from the future: ‘It’s June 2020 and it’s been a great two years, because…..’ from a backwards-looking perspective capture what mattered to you and why
Take an inventory of what makes you you
- Use tools to understand your personality: Personalysis, Meyers Briggs, Strenghtsfinder, Enneagram
- Pull out your old performance appraisals and reviews: notice any trends and patterns in how you interact with your work and challenges, evaluate how you have grown
- Dig up some old pictures and write your story in five faces
- Ask 3 people what your superpower & kryptonite are: think about when your superpower becomes your kryptonite
Finding your story takes time, reflection and practice. There is no one-size-fits all answer, so play around and try a few. Because story is such a powerful tool of connection, the investment will be worth it.
Stay tuned for Part 2 on how to use your story to connect at work.