One of the many downsides of pandemic-induced lockdowns and restrictions is that we have far fewer opportunities to have a conversation.
Whether because we’ve shifted to working from home, we aren’t in meetings with colleagues, or simply because face-masks make communication more difficult, it’s easy to feel that we’ve lost the art of conversation itself.
So how do we ensure that our work relationships - and our confidence in cultivating them - don’t suffer? Communications and storytelling expert Sue Carter believes that everyone has something interesting to say. Her mission is to help everyone uncover the stories about themselves which can “spark an eyebrow raise”.
Finding your story.
Knowing your own story can help make you at ease in conversation, more confident, and can help you guide what people know about you, according to Sue.
Firstly it’s important to understand what a story actually is. Former journalist Sue defined this as “something unusual happening to someone normal” - unless you happen to be a celebrity, when the opposite would be true.
Your story will paint a picture, spark an emotion, and stay in the mind of your listener. Sue’s tips for finding your own story are:
• Think about what’s surprising about you. This doesn’t have to be your whole personality or particular characteristics. It can be something you’ve done, a surprising little nugget of information about your life.
• Decide what you’re at ease describing about yourself.
• Work out what makes the story different or unusual.
It also helps to know the “headline grabber” of your story, said Sue. Think about some of the famous newspaper headlines, or any that you’ve seen which make you want to stop and read the whole story. Work out what this would be for your story, and this will help you uncover the main gist of what you want to get across in a conversation about it. But keep it simple - this is your story, and the more you come across as yourself, the more resonating your story will be.
Delivering your story.
When it comes to telling your story, Sue’s advice is to remember it’s not a business pitch. Breathe and put in pauses so that you pace yourself. Don’t worry about making mistakes - everyone does in conversation. Smile at the person you’re having a conversation with. And don’t worry if you forget bits of your story - your listener doesn’t know what you’ve left out.
Having a curiosity about other people’s stories can also help us connect, said Sue, especially in a world where we are more likely to be connecting virtually at the moment than in real life. Her advice is to ask questions about the person you’re chatting to, such as where they are based. Such questions will lead to other talking points and will help the conversation flow.
Being confident in your own story will help you bring the same skill to others.
• Would you like to work on your confidence and resilience, and learn to acknowledge your strengths and achievements? Beam’s eLearning Wellbeing Library has a full range of on-demand courses and workshops on these themes and more.