I had the great pleasure of listening to Gloria Lau, the interim CEO of the YWCA USA, speak at a Women’s Leadership conference in Cleveland last week. Gloria started by sharing a story about working in Hawaii. She said it takes time to develop trust with the locals. Yet you can shorten that time by openly sharing who you are through your stories.
Gloria said the people she worked with would say to her, “Come Auntie, let’s talk story.”
She quickly discovered they called all adult women Auntie. She fortunately surmised this was an important opportunity. She let go of the piles of work she had to do, choosing to go with the group to a place they could talk.
The people in her office eagerly listened to her stories about her parents migrating from China to the United States and how she had to pursue degrees at Sarah Lawrence and Harvard on her own because her parents didn’t think it was wise for a woman to spend her life that way.
Once they knew her stories, they not only trusted her but respected her.
We bond when we share stories. We feel a kinship on this life’s journey. We know the person we are with is as human as we are with struggles, triumphs, dreams, disappointments and surprises. Our judgment fades away. Our hearts soften when we hear each other’s stories.
I’m amazed how I keep learning this lesson sitting on airplanes. Whatever judgment I had about the person sitting too close to me fades when I hear their story. I still might choose to work, read, or watch something else than spend the flight talking to my seatmate, but the silly feelings of annoyance melt away.
When we listen to each other’s stories, we often see the similarities in our experiences, our struggles and our desires.
When I coach teams, I often ask each person to describe their perfect day one year from now, from the time they wake up until the time they go to sleep. When they share their dreams for both work and their home lives, the members are always amazed at how similar they are. A special rapport develops which helps them collaborate when they shift to tackling their work problems and actions.
Familiarity brings us together. Then, we open the space to ask each other, “What’s next?” Instead of feeling as if we are separate, we feel we are on a journey together.
What relationship could you improve by setting a time to share stories? What story could you add to your next presentation to better connect with your audience? What person would you like to know better by asking to hear their story?
What story would you like to share here? Come Aunties, let’s talk story.