Mar 172015
 

How do the stories you tell affect your loved ones’ image of you?

Through your stories, you’re providing context that your loved ones will use to understand you better. In essence, you’re projecting an image. For instance, when you share multiple memories about raising your children, your loved ones will come to think of you, and understand you better, as a parent. Which is great. But, there’s something better.

When you share a rich variety of memories and stories, your loved ones get to know you in a variety of roles. And that results in a deeper, multidimensional connection with your readers.

For instance, they might think of you as a loving grandpa, but through your stories, come to also know you as an athlete, a soldier, or a young man desperate to win that pretty girl’s heart.

When my boys were young, I used to take them to the corner barbershop for haircuts. It’s a local place where men of all ages and walks of life drop in to get a shave, cut, or trim. You take a number as you walk in and the wait provides prime people-watching entertainment.

Providing context barber chair

Providing context matters. If people only know you in one context, they won’t recognize you outside of that setting–like, at the Barber’s Shop

One day, a familiar looking man was in line before us. All three of us recognized him, but couldn’t place him. It was a busy Saturday, so we had a full ten minutes to (surreptitiously) contemplate his identity. Father of a soccer teammate? Employee at the grocery? Teacher? A doctor one of us had seen? (Yeah, that’s a sad commentary that at that point in our lives we were seeing so many doctors that we couldn’t keep them straight.)

As the gentleman left, the barber called out, “See you soon, Dr. Caron.” Finally, it dawned on us. He’s our veterinarian.

He was out of context. Without the office, white coat and pet hair, we didn’t recognize him. We were like the elementary school kid who is flabbergasted to see his or her gym teacher in the grocery store. Don’t gym teachers only exist inside the school? I made a remedial note to self: vets get haircuts.

As storytellers, it’s important to provide rich—and diverse—context for our memories and family stories. As rich of a setting a veterinary office is, you don’t want that to be the only setting you build. We want them to recognize us, even if we’re in the barber shop without our white coat or dog hair.

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