Telling Your Story

img_6770“So what do you do?” It’s a question that most of us answer badly. We fall back behind a label (‘I’m a doctor / lawyer / accountant’). Or we relate what we’ve done in the past, a list of tasks completed rather than an exploration of goals achieved and skills acquired. Or worst of all, we claim not to do anything at all! (‘I’m just a housewife, I’m unemployed …’) when that just means that you’re not currently paid money for all the things you do and you love.

But when you define yourself like this, you’re missing out on an opportunity to really connect with the other person. You’re selling yourself short, and cheating them too in the process. img_6734How you present yourself has a huge impact on how others see you. You wouldn’t buy an expensive gift and hand it over in an old paper bag. So when you meet people, present yourself well: it helps them see you clearly.

Recently I was introduced to Steve at a networking event. “So what do you do?” I asked. “Oh, it’s very boring,” he replied. “I look at numbers on a screen.” “Tell me more,” I persisted. “It’s just data. I look for anomalies in the figures.” By this point I was starting to feel desperate, but I tried a third time: img_6769“Can you give me an example?” “Well yeah … you know when there’s a hurricane in the Caribbean and people donate money? We buy tents and send them over but sometimes they go missing before they reach the camps. That means someone stole them and I work out who.” “Oh my goodness,” I said. “So you’re a sort of Robin Hood for refugees … Why didn’t you say so?”

When you’re asked what you do, how do you reply? Answering with a job title and company is our cultural norm; anything else could make you feel exposed and vulnerable. But the way you present yourself has a huge impact on how others perceive you. When you’re freelance, self-employed, or looking for a new job – how could you introduce yourself in a way that makes you sound interesting? Which emphasizes not only what you’ve done but what you can offer? That tells them about your passions and what makes life worth living? Which makes you feel better about yourself?

img_6733So next time, answer with a story that tells people about yourself. Which lets them connect with you as a human being. You’re much more than what you do for a living. You’re  unique, tell us how!

If you’re interested in Workshops, find out more here.

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A Time to Grow

doowrayIt’s the turning of the year. The light is clean and cold. The sun sets before you’re ready – a good metaphor for life, maybe! In past times, the harvest would have been gathered and travellers returned home.
Yet this is also a time of new beginnings. November is the new month, when plants put down their roots. Samhain, our Hallows Eve, was the Celtic New Year.
So if you want to stay snug at home, maybe it’s because you’re doing soulwork. Sometimes you need quiet time to grow. As you curl up on the sofa, let the seed of a new you start to germinate. Who knows what the next stage of your life will bring?

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As You Travel

May the way be smooth before you
The skies shine clear above you
The wind be always at your back

May you have fire bright to warm you
Good friendships to cheer you
Food to break your fast

May you have work for your hands
Books to nourish your mind
Music to lift your soul

Jane Bailey Bain 9/12/2015
In the Celtic blessing tradition

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Walk In Their Shoes

* Social reporting is a collaborative way of curating an event. Leaders and participants are all invited to contribute. The record may include words, images, links and video clips.*

TattooAnthropologists are fond of a technique called ‘participant observation’. You join a remote tribe in Borneo, or a street gang in East Harlem, and become part of the group. Soon you’re enthusiastically taking part in a whole new world. Dance-offs? Eating lizards? Initiation rites? You acquire tattoos in places that don’t show on the metro. It’s all based on the premise that to really understand someone, you have to walk a mile in their shoes. If you want to catch big fish, you must be prepared to swim with sharks.

Social reporting is a similar idea, but it’s more a matter of participants’ observations. What we’re aiming for here isn’t just recording what went on: it’s getting people involved in the process, so that they want to see the result. A ‘conference’ (Latin: ‘bring together’) is much more than just a series of lectures and meetings. Before the event, the organizers plan a formal timetable. During the sessions, participants have experiences which may or may not reflect the official schedule. Afterwards, attendees want to remember what actually happened. When you bring people together you can’t always control what goes on!

What’s special about this technique? Simply, it’s collective storytelling: the output evolves as you go along. It’s a way of getting people involved and interested. It lets everyone contribute to the final record. Which makes the report feel more relevant for all concerned.

Social reporting is a participative and inclusive approach. It encompasses a role, a set of skills and a philosophy. The philosophy is that everyone’s experiences and perspective are valid and worth consideration: we shouldn’t just rely on the official version of events. The skills involve collection, collation and curation. The role is that of anthropologist, looking simultaneously outside in and inside out, to truly represent the gathering.

SocRepConfMe (2)Why does social reporting work? Because it goes with human nature. People are most interested in their own stories. When you see a group photo, who’s the first person you look for?  If your college has a year book, whose page do you turn to first? When a report drops onto your desk, do you read it all eagerly?  Or do you flip through the bit that affects you, then file it away? When you use social reporting to curate an event, you’ll ensure that everyone looks through the whole report. It recreates the content, mood and ethos of the gathering in an accessible and memorable way.

If you like this post, use the buttons below to Share on Facebook, Twitter or Stumbleupon. Visit my Author Pageand follow me on Twitter @janebaileybain.

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Why Share Stories?

I Dont Know How

This novel opens with the heroine ‘distressing’ mince pies to pass them off as home-made. She’s trying to juggle career and family. The question you might ask me is not how, but why?

StoryWorks launch party was a great success, with over eighty people who drank nearly four cases of wine. The initial print run sold out via Amazon and the publishers are reprinting already.

BookLaunchCropChatting over coffee, I tried to tell school colleagues why this means so much to me. The book isn’t actually making any money: I’d have to sell thousands of copies for that to happen. Even with a good publisher who bears most of the production costs, it’s cost me almost a grand to produce. So why does I do it?

Well, I really believe in this book, on a number of different levels. Let’s see…

First, it’s my gift to you: a life’s worth of stories that should be shared. Friends, family and followers – this is wealth I give to you. I hope you find it worthwhile.

Second, it’s something for you to give too. Storytelling is a real ‘gift that keeps on giving’. Tales that you can tell others or read aloud to children. Narrative techniques so you can craft new stories of your own.

And third, it’s an act of altruism. Maybe this book will help someone tell their story better: a leader in a poor community, a young person applying for their first job. You see, stories are simply the best way to communicate. This is because humans are storytelling animals: our brains are hardwired for narrative. We see patterns in things – shapes in tealeaves, faces in the clouds – it’s called pareidolia. Perceiving patterns is how we learn from experience: we form a causal narrative sequence of events, ie a story. Sharing stories is how we communicate our learning to others. Storytelling lets us relate to people, convey a message, promote a cause: if you want to change your life or change the world, do it with a story.

BookCloseUpSo making this book a success makes me feel good. Because I believe it can help others.
(Remember, I used to work in development!)
Every copy works the promotion machine, so thanks for your support. And maybe knowing that each order costs you £12 for something that’s worth closer to £15 will make you feel better too. If you’d like to post a review, that would be great – I do love reading them.

May your story be good!

NB I’ve used Five-Point Story Structure here, in case you hadn’t noticed!

StoryWorks on AmazonUK (including review)

StoryWorks on AmazonUSA (currently on discount)

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Stories At Work


Ever since the first people sat around their campfires, we have told stories. People tell tales to explain events and to justify their actions. We see how one thing led to another, and wonder what might happen next. We learn about how we should behave in a similar situation. We use stories to understand the world.

Myths are some of the best stories ever told. They have stood the test of time, surviving to be re-told generation after generation. Tales of heroes and clever girls, treasure and monsters capture our imagination. Our modern world doesn’t contain many dragons, but metaphorical monsters still exist. Whether you’re fighting the establishment, coping with colleagues or dealing with depression, stories show you a way to go on. Myths and fairytales tell us to be brave and teach us to tackle life’s problems. Whether you’re a princess or an urchin, a lot of courage and a measure of good sense will see you through.


Find out how stories can help you at work in this great New York Times article on ‘Storytelling your way to a better job‘. More about the power of stories in my new book ‘StoryWorks‘. Join the StoryWorks Mailing List for future updates! Visit my Author Page and follow me on Twitter @janebaileybain. If you like this post, use the buttons below to Share on Facebook, Twitter or Stumbleupon.


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The Power of Story

Tell me your story. Let’s start at the very beginning. Where in the world were you born? What name did your parents give you? Do you have brothers and sisters? Where did you go to school? In other words, Who are you??


There are seven billion people on this planet, but your story is unique. Everything about you – your loves and your hates, your gifts and your challenges, your disappointments and your successes – is part of your personal narrative. All your experiences have made you who you are today. They are a line of footprints leading to exactly where you are now.


TapestryLife is a tapestry woven from many threads. Everyone you meet is a part of this pattern. Each of them has their own story that made them who they are today: the schoolboy on the #33 bus, the woman in the corner shop, the funny guy at the party, the old man on the park bench: they all have their own private hopes and dreams, their fears and regrets, their longings and secret sadnessses. When you see them in the street, wonder about the series of events which brought them to cross your path. Think about who they really are, behind that public mask. Ask yourself what lessons you could learn from them.


When you tell me your story, you are telling me about yourself. You decide what is important: the people, places and events that are significant in your life. Naturally, you edit the narrative to suit your image. Some incidents make you look clever, funny or brave; others don’t reflect your real self. Life Story BookYou tell stories to make sense of your life, linking one thing to another  in a causal sequence of events. Be careful, because stories can create reality. Tell someone about what you’ve achieved, and watch your reflection in their eyes. Moan about how hard things have been, and those obstacles will cast ongoing shadows in your path. Stories can literally change the world. They provide models and metaphors which shape your perceptions. Hearing a well-told tale may transform your life. Leaders, teachers, lawyers and politicians all understand the power of story.


StoryOldManYour friends and family and colleagues each have their own story. Ask them about it: you might be surprised how little you know. When you listen to someone else’s story, you learn about things outside your own personal experience. If you find things in common, you feel closer to that other person. If their experiences are very different, you can empathize with them. Stories can teach you about how the world works, about how people think and feel, about what to expect from life. When friends share stories, you help each other to learn and grow.


So start asking people questions. Be genuinely interested in their answers. When you talk to someone, give them your full attention. So often, people get stuck on superficialities: What do you do? Where do you live? These markers help to place someone, but they don’t really tell you about the person you’re talking to. Everyone has something to share which could enrich your life. Try some more significant questions. When do you feel really happy? What’s your favourite saying? Why did you come to this place? Who are the most important people in your life? What’s on your bucket list? What’s your story?


That’s one thing you could ask everyone you meet: Tell me your story….


LifeWorks‘ shows how you compose your own life story. ‘StoryWorks‘ is my new book on the power of story. Visit my Author Page and follow me on Twitter @janebaileybain. If you like this post, leave a comment and use the buttons below to Share on Twitter, Facebook and Stumbleupon.

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