Our Collective Stories

Have you ever noticed how when you share a story with someone, it becomes their story too?

There is something validating when we can say, “Oh yeah, that happened to…” me, my friend, my brother, my dog, whomever… It’s a concrete way of showing that we can relate to what the other person is saying. And it can be really exciting to be the first person to share a story within your circle.

This idea was highlighted for me tonight. My wallet was stolen this afternoon. That’s a pretty simple statement, but the narrative of the events unfolding and the aftermath of it all is quite complicated. The story isn’t even complete yet. I have shared it with my immediate family, and then (somewhat without thinking) I posted it on Facebook.

As I lay awake in bed, unable to sleep, I realized that I am already tired of the story and regretted the Facebook post. I don’t know that I want to keep hashing it out with every person I know, because it’s tiring to keep reliving the experience. But, I know that the story will spread throughout my network, even though I don’t know that I necessarily want it to.

But, my story has become their story. And they can do whatever they want with it, because it’s theirs now. I’m sure you’ll hear a sightly different version, depending on who you ask.

And, yes, I realize that I’m sharing it with even more people by writing about it here.

Here’s what I’m trying to understand — what makes us want to share and spread some stories and not others?

We hear and read about tons of different things every day. What makes it something that we just can’t wait to tell someone else about?

It’s extreme.
Really good news and really bad news seem to spread quickly.

It’s out-of-the-ordinary.
It’s something that shakes up your community. Something new and different.

These ideas are probably pretty obvious. But — how can you make the stories you want people to talk about spread like wildfire? Like, your new product launch? Or your upcoming seminar?

People naturally share stories. They want to share cool, exciting, different stuff with their friends and family. But, if my business is offering the same ho-hum stuff as everyone else…why should I expect people to talk about it?

Going forward with my own business, I plan to spend more time developing my offerings and my brand into something more out-of-the-ordinary. Something easy to talk about and easy to share. Can everyone in my network tell the story of the services I offer as easily as they can tell the story of how my wallet got stolen during a client meeting at Panera?

It’s something to consider as you plan your next marketing campaign. I know that I’m keeping it in mind for mine.


  1. Charles Widmore on June 30, 2010 at 4:17 am

    Storytelling is part of what seperates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. Our ability to share and relive stories is how we learn from triumphs or mistakes. This is how we progress and evolve.

    This is why retelling stories is such an internalized device in human history.
    Your wallet story has made the threat of theft real. Everyone who has heard it will take at least the slightest extra precaution next time they’re out to eat.

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