Sharing without shadowing
Recently, twice in one week I experienced people asking something along the lines of, "Is it okay if I connect with your story by telling a story of my own?" Mind blown. "Um, yes," I muttered both times, "Of course." As a quiet person who often feels overshadowed by others' stories, I was astounded that I hadn't heard this before (if you asked questions like this in the past and I didn't notice requests, I promise to listen better).
In one instance, it was a story about adventure in the great outdoors; in the other it was a request for help from someone with similar experiences. In both occasions, I felt 100% heard, respected, and honored.
How can we apply this in our lives? Try saying things like the following to students, family members, friends, colleagues, and others:
"Wow! What a cool experience. Is it okay if I share something similar?"
"Oh my gosh, I totally relate to that. Can I tell you a similar story?"
"I'm so sorry that happened to you. When you're ready is it okay if I share something similar that happened to me?
Full disclosure, I didn't know what to say if I didn't want to connect via someone else's story. Retrospect encourages reflection, and I would like to be able to say things like:
"It was cool! I'd like to celebrate my own experience for now - thanks for asking."
"I appreciate you asking - I'm not ready to connect about that. Maybe later?"
"That was really hard for me. I think I need to process some more before I can listen to others' stories."
This is a beautiful example of asking for, listening for, and respecting consent. I believe in both of my experiences if I had said "no," the other story wouldn't have been shared. This allows a person to fully experience their own story while simultaneously considering whether to learn and grow from others' stories in that moment. It doesn't mean I don't want to learn going forward - it simply gives me the immediate option.
Working on adding this to my conversational repertoire ✔️
"May I share a story that connects to yours?" - Deena & Shauna, 2023