How to Get Comfortable Telling Personal Stories in Your Business (even if you’re scared to share!)
by Cheryl Binnie

What are you most afraid of in your business?

Is it technology (for doing, say, a webinar or Facebook Live video)?

Speaking on stages?

Sales calls and enrollment conversations?

All of the above are super common fears in the entrepreneurial world.

But one major fear I see ALL.THE.TIME. (but that doesn’t get talked about very often) is the fear of SHARING yourself.

It’s a little different from “putting yourself out there.” You could go out networking and “put yourself out there” without getting personal.

But many of the people I work with (experts, coaches, speakers, authors, etc.) have to go deeper in order to make a true connection with their audience and potential buyers.

I’m talking about the fear of sharing your personal stories. In your business.

So many people have built up a big brick wall when it comes to sharing stories in professional settings.

They think that opening up will hold them back in some way.

But here’s the thing…

Staying closed off and impersonal is what will hold you back!

How to tell personal stories in your business (even if you're shared to share!)

Because let’s face it: people hire people. If they have 5 different options for a health coach, they’re going to go with the person they feel the most connected with.

So why do so many entrepreneurs struggle with the idea of opening up and sharing stories?

The Top 4 Fears I Hear About Story-Sharing:

  • Why would anyone hire me if they knew I struggled with this, too? (If you went through a similar struggle to what your clients are going through, maybe you’re worried you’ll look like a mess if you share that story.)
  • Will I scare people away? (They might be like, “Whooooa nelly! She’s too intense!”)
  • Does anyone actually care? (You’re worried it will all just sound like a sob story, and you don’t want to come across as dramatic.)
  • Will I look unprofessional if I share stories from my personal life? (So many of us are taught to keep business and personal separate. But what happens when your business is personal? Or your personality is your business? Toeing the line can be tricky, but it’s SO doable.)

Buckle in, kiddos. I’ve got answers to all of those!

Fear #1: “Why would anyone hire me if they knew I struggled with this, too?”

Yes, sharing your stories often means admitting, “I had trouble with this, just like you.”

And that’s wonderful! That’s how your ideal clients will really understand that you GET them.

But don’t forget: you’ll ALSO share how you got yourself OUT of that mess.

This is one part of the story that I see entrepreneurs forgetting all the time.

They go whole hog on talking about the struggle, their rock-bottom moment, and how hard things were.

And we, the readers or listeners, are right there with them, feeling all the feels.

But thennnn, the storyteller suddenly jumps to, “And now I help other people with the same struggle,” and dives straight into her teaching points for the presentation!

And we’re left thinking, “But wait – did you ever fix it? Are you STILL stuck there?

Don’t skip over the solution!

You have to share how you got OUT of your pickle.

For example: “That’s when I realized XYZ. I decided to do whatever it took never to be in that situation again. And I started doing my own research and homework until I figured it out.”

Then tell us what life is like TODAY, now that you fixed this mess, and how you help other people.

For example: “Today, I’m in the best shape of my life (at age 55!), and I now help other women to XYZ…”

Fear #2: “Will I scare people away?”

I get this one a lot. The answer is – maaaaaybe.

It all depends on who you’re trying to attract.

So start by getting SUPER clear on who you want to work with. Who do you LOVE? Who are your favorite clients? And what are the problems THEY are struggling with?

If it’s similar to the struggle you had in your story, then no – your super dramatic story WON’T scare them away. That’s the story they need to hear, so they know you get it.

Lemme give a real-life example…

A few years ago, I was working with a parenting coach who wanted to share some of her personal stories in an email campaign. She had a story about how, as a teenager, she’d tried to commit suicide.

She didn’t mind people knowing about this…but…

…she was worried that this story would “scare people away.”

So I asked her, “Who are you trying to attract? What kind of parents and families do you LOVE to work with?”

She said, “I love working with the really tough, emotional cases. Maybe the parent has some kind of dark past, and they think, ‘How can I help my kid when I’M so messed up?’ And they’re scared of passing that onto their child. Or maybe they see their kid struggling, and they’re TERRIFIED there’s something going on behind the scenes that they don’t know about… but they don’t know how to TALK to their kids about it.”

And BAM. She got it. While her story might scare SOME people away, it wouldn’t scare away the people she actually WANTS to attract.

Because her ideal clients were struggling with these exact fears, and needed to know she could go deep with them.

(Just to be clear: she didn’t go into detail about the suicide attempt itself. The story was more about how she felt isolated as a teen and couldn’t talk to anyone, and it culminated in this attempt, which influenced her approach to life and later on, parenting.)

Oh – and once she shared this story with her email list, she got a number of replies back from people saying, “I had no idea you understood!” She also got 3 private clients. Just sayin’. 😉

So why did I share this story with you?

Because I want you to know that it’s okay to share stories where you’ve hit rock bottom and thought + fought your way back out of it.

It’s okay to share a story where you have failed at something.

You can show the client that you know their struggle personally. Your understanding and vulnerability may connect them to you and your work even more.

So if you’ve got a dramatic story and are worried that sharing it would be “going too far”…

…you gotta ask yourself: “Is this the story my ideal clients NEED to hear in order to understand that I GET what they’re going through?

And be honest. Don’t just tell a dramatic story for the sake of telling a dramatic story. If that story has nothing to do with the struggles of your ideal clients, then yeah – it’ll probably feel over-the-top.

But if it’s something they can relate to – if you can show them that you’ve been there, survived it, and found the way OUT – then yes. Consider sharing it, as long as you’re comfortable with putting it out there.

Psst… Want more step-by-step help figuring out WHICH story to use as your Signature Story + how to craft it? Grab a free copy of my Signature Story Workbook, a fill-in-the-blank guide to telling stories that resonate with your ideal clients:

Click here to subscribe

Fear #3: “Does anyone actually care?”

In a word…YES.

Remember the story about my Parenting Coach client?

The reason she got such a huge response to her story was because she CONNECTED with with her ideal audience.

I really want to emphasize this point…

You can’t connect with your ideal clients unless you GIVE them something authentic of yourself.

Also.

Don’t forget that the person is already reading your material – whether they’ve stumbled onto your blog or signed up for your newsletter, or are even just sitting in the audience where you’re presenting – that means they’re already interested in YOU and what you have to share.

The more they can get to know you for REAL, the more likely they are to hire you.

And especially if you’re in the service industry like coaching or training, people are hiring you for YOU just as much (if not more!) than they’re hiring you for the stuff you provide.

Think about it…

If someone wants to lose weight, they have hundreds of thousands of resources and options.

Part of what will make them choose you is your message. And that involves YOU.

People will fall in love with you!

And if you’re worried about sounding like a sympathy case or sob story, remember this…

Humans love a good dramatic story.

I mean…we don’t go to the movies to watch paint dry!

And if you’re sharing a story of transformation, then no – it’s not a sob story.

If you’re worried about sounding like you’re complaining, then look back over your first draft (with fresh eyes). You may even want to have an honest friend highlight trigger spots.

For instance, look for spots where someone might go, “Whoa, she’s not over that yet.

Try this rule of thumb: if you still get super emotional, pissed off, resentful, or you start sobbing – you may need to restructure the story.

For example, I was working with a woman on her story about how a previous business venture didn’t work out.

Her message is that companies need good leadership. However, in her story, she was very clear that the business venture failed because her business partner was awful and ruined things because he disagreed with her approach to leadership.

She was worried that, if it wasn’t clear that it was the partner’s fault, it would look like SHE didn’t know what she was doing.

But it just sounded like she was venting and blaming her partner – which actually made her look more immature (and resentful), rather than the calm, competent expert she truly is.

So we made some simple tweaks to take out the blame and anger toward the partner, and violà! It became a mature story where she took responsibility for not stepping up as the kind of leader she knew her company needed – and how THAT was the lesson she needed to learn in order to transform.

This new version of the story better reflects the kind of transformation she wants her ideal clients to have, so they can “experience” the learning + the victory with her.

Your story is not meant to be a therapy session for yourself. Of course, it’s okay if you shed a few tears – that could even connect you to the audience more – but if you can’t make it through the story without a mini meltdown or Blame Game session, maybe shelve it for a while until you’ve healed a bit more.

Remember, your story connects your clients to how you can help them, not how they can help you.

Fear #4: “Will I look unprofessional if I share stories from my personal life?”

If you come from a corporate background, the idea of sharing stories may be a bit foreign to you.

But as you venture deeper and deeper into your business and engaging with your clients, you’ll realize that YOU are just as important as your work.

So where do you draw the line between personal and professional?

Well, if you refer to the pointers above, you’re off to the races with some good guidelines.

Continue to think about the answers to these questions:
“who are you attracting?”
“what are the stories they need?’

And don’t forget…

People are buying YOU, too!

So you need to have a different mindset and mentality when you’re trying to get people to hire you.

Your ideal clients need to know that you understand them and know where they’re coming from.

Stories are one of the fastest ways to show that AND teach a lesson and have it really sink in.

You can give pointers, steps, and tips all day. But what a story does is help to anchor the learning point, so your audience is more likely to remember the takeaway.

For instance, you’re more likely to remember the story of my parenting coach client than you are to remember any of the teaching points in this article!

It’s true!

Stories allow you to impart the lessons that your people really need to learn and what you want them to understand. Which gives you the power to change the way your audience functions and sees things.

Try avoiding the binary of “professional” versus “unprofessional” and instead ask yourself, “what’s the best way to help the people who need your help?”

Certain corporate environments can feel a little systematic and sterile, so when you’re developing your own business, bringing the human element back into the game is a great place to begin.

Show them a little Luv! 😉

Listen, I know this is all easier said than done… WAY easier said than done.

For all the swirling thoughts like, “Okay, but how MUCH can I share?” or “What if I’m not using the right language to attract people”…

I say – start where you are.

It’s totally normal to feel like opening up is a big hurdle.

Just start by saying yes to YOU.

Let yourself in. What do you need to hear from yourself?

You’ve come this far, so chances are, you’ve got a good intuition and head on your shoulders.

Trust yourself. Honor your story. And share it to connect with others who need you.

That’s a perfect recipe for transforming some spooky dark clouds into bright, story sunshine.

xoxo,
Cheryl

P.S. Crafting + sharing stories is something I help my private clients with in my “Done WITH You” writing program. This is my version of a coaching program: you get 1-on-1 sessions with me, where we work on your current projects TOGETHER (anything from messaging, to stories, to website rewrites, to email campaigns, to launches and more).

So not only are we checking off your writing to-do list – you’re also getting expert guidance and accountability, along with lots of mini-lessons and tips that you can apply immediately.

Wanna find out more? Let’s talk! Schedule a free Strategy Session with me here, and we’ll talk about what’s on your plate + if this is a good option for you. There’s no obligation to hire me after this call, but regardless, you’ll walk away with action steps and ideas to move forward.