One of the benefits of working on your story with a coach is that she can listen to the different layers of your story and help you make sense of them all.
Can you recall a time when a colleague or a friend was telling you a story and you become interested in one of the points he was making and wanted to know what happened next, but then he suddenly moved on to another aspect of the story, leaving you with the uncomfortable feeling of wanting to know more?
Let’s say you’re listening to your colleague telling you how he was working with a business that was going through a difficult time, giving you quite a lot of detail about what was going on with that business and then suddenly, when you’ve started caring about the situation and the future of the business and want to know what happened there, he shifts to talking about how his career progressed after he worked with it successfully.
I call this opening too many windows. It happens when we don’t follow the rule of caring; the story goes with what you and what the audience care about.
Caring is where you create an emotional connection.
In Erin Brockovich’s film we care about the protagonist being able to show what she’s really capable of. But at the same time we also care that the energy corporation, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, is finally found responsible for the Hinkley groundwater contamination.
Both elements of the story are interrelated. If bringing down Pacific Gas and Electric to pay $333 million compensation had been achieved without her input, the story would be less satisfying than knowing that the case was won because of her.
And this is all because we care about making a greedy corporation accountable for its deeds as much as we care for her.
The first ten minutes of the film shows Erin trying to get a job, struggling as a single mum, fighting her corner to get her head above the water. We know she’s a fighter, and in our hearts we’ve already chosen her as the one who’s going to bring a big corporation to its knees.
When you tell a story, invest in the part that you want us to care about. Don’t tell other stories within the story, don’t get into details that don’t answer the question of why this matters and why I should care.
Coming back to the example above, you may have two stories: one about how a struggling business ends up thriving with your help, and another about how you’ve successfully progressed your career by helping others.
But if you want to put it altogether in one story you need to give me something I can care about, something unique about who you are, the way you work with your clients, the values you stand for.
“Am I giving them enough to care?” is always a good question to ask yourself about your story. And if the answer is yes, you’re pointing in the right direction.