Why You Should Talk About Yourself a Lot More

You’re pretty savvy.You’ve learned some lessons, professionally and personally, and you’ve developed more than a handful of insights around these experiences.You’re not a jerk.At more than one dinner party, you’ve made at least two people laugh.Sounds like things are going pretty well. Sounds like you’re ready.It’s time to tell your stories, and to encourage other women to do so, too. Or if you’re already telling, it’s time to polish up some best practices.

Hi! I’m Megan Finnerty and I’m coming on as a storytelling and lady leadership blogger at Take the Lead. And, together, we’re going to explore why personal storytelling is important, how you can do it authentically, and how it can change your workplace, your community, and your world by changing your relationships.When people feel empowered to tell their stories, and others feel excited about listening, something in a community changes, whether that community is a family, an office, or a corporation, an idea I flesh out more here.But the short version is: stories make people feel closer to each other. They feel more accepting of those unlike themselves. They feel more connected to their community and the people in it. They feel more ready to invest their time, talent, and emotions.When you tell your own story, you can connect you to the people in your professional and personal lives more deeply, leading to more trust, and, ultimately, to collaboration.This is not a call to become a better salesperson (though storytelling can help people sell things, of course). Take the Lead is about changing women’s lives, not selling things, per se. So I won’t try to sell you a shiny new leadership identity like some Sad Sack Sally infomercial person, either.Instead, I’m going to help you keep it real while you’re getting real.Take the Lead founder Gloria Felt says that one of the nine power tools women need is storytelling: “Tell your story. Your story is your truth and your truth is your power. Others need and want to hear it as you want and need to hear theirs.”How does she know this? How do I?Science. Science is how.The science that explains why narrative storytelling is so powerful is neuroscience. Long story short (ahem), your brain naturally organizes information according to a “this happened, then this happened, then this happened” cause-and-effect pattern.But that’s just one part of it. Scientist Paul J. Zak of Claremont Graduate University studies why stories motivate cooperation. He thinks it’s related to the brain chemical oxytocin, which produces what Zak describes as an “it’s safe to approach others” signal in the brain.In Harvard Business Review, he writes: “Oxytocin is produced when we are trusted or shown a kindness, and it motivates cooperation with others. It does this by enhancing the sense of empathy, our ability to experience others’ emotions.”This means character-driven stories cause oxytocin release. And, the amount of oxytocin released impacts how much people are willing to act.So, let’s release some oxytocin—I mean, tell stories! About ourselves, and the things and people and ideas we care about most.