It is my firm belief that stories open doors and allow you to make connections with people of all sorts. That’s a core theory behind Storychick. So I was a bit taken aback when I came upon what seemed like the opposite in a book I’m otherwise loving: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.
In an argument that parallels the issues some have with oversharing, Brown talks about “floodlighting”. It’s a vulnerability shield where we dump stories that are too hard, too personal, on anyone we find in the hopes of making connections, and succeed only in driving them away, disgusted.
People recoil and shut down, compounding our shame and disconnection.
The path we should take, according to Brown, is more intimate.
When it comes to vulnerability, connectivity means sharing our stories with people who have earned the right to hear them – people with whom we’ve cultivated relationships that can bear the weight of our story.
So, which comes first – the connection or the story?
I still firmly believe that sharing powerful stories can create connections – but it depends in part on people’s openness, their willingness to hear. If I walked into a bar full of strangers and shared my story, many might turn their backs in the face of the emotion involved. BUT, I bet that a couple of people in the room would identify with it in some fashion and a connection would be formed.
The greatest success in sharing stories and making connections probably does come with some sort of filtering. You wouldn’t stand up and talk about a struggle with illness or unemployment during the toasts at a wedding of college friends (assuming there’s no relate). But you would if the audience had a large number of people in the same boat. They’re more open to it, so of course it will go over better.
The filter shouldn’t focus on whether or not to tell a story, but rather which story to tell to best connect with your audience, whether a crowd or a single person. Stories CAN make connections and don’t always need intimacy, if you’re telling the right ones.
What do you think? Connections or stories?