I hear a lot of stories. I tell them, too.
Shared stories depend on the setting and the mood of conversation. I’ve also been guilty of sharing a story in order to change the direction of conversation. Stories I tell may involve others: my children, my husband, an old friend. Sometimes, a story I share is just about me.
We all like to tell stories. They help us learn from each other, and to figure out where we belong in time, space, and history. They are how we relate to each other, how we communicate and exchange information, how we understand others and invite them to understand us.
For a story lover, an important thing to consider is if a story suits the time it is told. Is it appropriate for me to share this story with you? Is it relevant? Will you take it the wrong way, will it cast a shadow on my character, am I going to get the details right? Am I exaggerating too much, taking too much artistic license? Is this story crossing over into fiction?
Most importantly, is this story mine to tell?
I’ve heard quite a few stories from others about their own experiences that have stuck with me, ones that I remember well. Some are laugh out loud funny, unbelievable tales that I couldn’t make up if I wanted to. Some are gut-wrenching, tear-filled remembrances that are recalled in pain. We can mention them in passing or to illustrate a topic, but a good story by itself is enough.
Some stories are so good that my storytelling bones ache from wanting to adopt them as my own. I’d love to tell about the time my dad came home on Christmas day with a real live monkey, when I met the president, or how our family vacation turned into an adventure. I’ll trade any of these stories for the one I have about witnessing a diarrhea accident in the checkout line at the grocery store.
I make it my business to tell stories on my blog. Sometimes they’re mine. Sometimes they’re about my family and friends. Toeing the line between what’s appropriate to share and what’s not is not a difficult decision. I think about how I’d feel if someone else shared a story of mine, something private. It could be a conversation or something I did that I’d rather not repeat. I call it the cringe test. If I cringe thinking that a story was being told about me, I keep it to myself. I always ask if a shared story crosses the line over into someone else’s experience instead of mine.
Asking to share a story is a kindness. I’ve never been refused when I’ve asked another person if I could share their story. Usually people are willing and honored to be written about, or to be mentioned to others. At our core, we all just want to be known and understood. We all want to share our stories. If someone else thinks our story is worthwhile to share, that makes us happy. It makes us feel visible and valuable. It connects us.