About halfway through the first session of Do/Teach, something incredible started happening.
I must admit, I was completely blow away by this unexpected result.
What is it about the process of developing a class that encourages such personal sharing?
In his book, Realizing Empathy: An Inquiry into the Meaning of Making, Seung Chan Lim shares the story of a friend in an acting class who is moved to tell her own story (through song) after an experience of attempting to empathize with the character she was playing. He writes, “The act of trying to empathize with an other, inspired her to tell the story of who she is.”
By trying to understand an other, Seung Chan explains, we always gain deeper understanding of ourselves.
The process of trying to get into the minds of their future students (a big part of the Do/Teach process) helped my students more fully understand and share something about themselves.
But the reasons for sharing such personal stories don’t end there.
When I teach marketing (which I do in Do/Teach) I encourage my students to let their own personalities come through. “Vanilla brands don’t create raving fans,” I often say. (My apologies for the lame rhyme.)
So many online solo-preneurs try so hard not to upset anyone. To not let their own likes or dislikes shine through. And this is especially true for those who hope to become teachers. Teachers, we’ve been taught, aren’t supposed to be humans.
But the best teachers are just that. Human. Real people with real lives and real passions and real flaws.
Seung Chan Lim writes:
“The acting teachers I’ve met go out of their way to model sincerity. They regularly and honestly shared their vulnerable personal stories with their students. They were always themselves, and rarely tried to appear like a ‘teacher.’… And the outcome of such sincerity was that the level of intimacy and dynamism the students felt in the space was extraordinary. And when they were asked to ‘take risks,’ they did so in ways you would never be able to imagine.”
Whether your are teaching a class or selling a product, you are asking someone to take a risk.
You are asking them to try or buy or do something new.
And when you present your true self, your real self, in the form of highly personal stories, you create a level of intimacy that enables them to take that risk.
I often speak about the importance of using customer centric language. “You customer doesn’t care about your process.” I like to lecture. And it’s true. To your customer, your process means very little.
So it’s easy to be confused by what I’m saying here. If your customer doesn’t care about your process, why would they care about your story?
Because in the case of these incredibly personal stories, I’m not talking about a HOW story. I’m talking about a WHY story.
I recently shared a story of a new painting on my blog. There’s is absolutely nothing customer centric about this story. But it still has appeal to someone looking at my painting, because it’s not the story of how I created the painting. It’s the story of WHY I created the painting.
It’s not a story of mixing paint or selecting a specific paint brush.
It’s the story of a real, universal, human feeling translated to paint.
Not every story you share has to be one of loss, tragedy, or heartache to have a profound influence on your audience. Stories of true happiness, of sheer joy, of insane humor – these can be just as powerful.
Sharing your personal stories takes immense courage. And it also takes a skillful editing eye, to understand which stories should be shared in which moments.
But when you do share your personal stories, it creates a powerful connection to the people who read them.
It builds a deeper level of understanding between yourself and your reader.
And that deeper level of understanding is what can encourage your reader to take the risk required to become more than simply a student or a customer. It may just turn them into a fan.