Life is a chain of human experiences. Our principles, laws, moral philosophies, attitudes, leadership methodologies – none of these were issued to us at birth. In fact, if we reflect on any of those items long enough, we’ll realize that we can trace them back to real-life experiences that somehow moved the needle on our worldview.
As a child, you didn’t think to yourself, “Well, if I take 300 people and organize them this way, we can achieve maximum efficiency.” Somewhere between the playground and the boardroom, you started collecting anecdotes representing how you came to those conclusions. You likely didn’t see it that way at the time – you were just surviving, navigating unforeseen challenges, and learning from those who went before you.
If you were asked why you developed your current views on leadership, though (or really any topic), you might not immediately revert back to those stories. You may feel that these principles were based on intellectual precepts, but most often, that’s simply not the case. As you grew into leadership, there were hiccups along the way. You encountered barriers, people who tried to intercede, and maybe even some of your own personal demons.
It’s those stories – the ones that describe a human being having a relatable experience, not a leader transmitting philosophical concepts alone – that will transform the lives of your readers because they will see themselves in what you’ve detailed. They may find themselves currently neck-deep in the same issues you faced. They could experience empathy for your experiences. But most importantly, they’re more likely to develop an emotional connection with your content, which could strike a nerve that they’ll remember. Science has proved again and again that emotion and memory have a powerful link.
There are many reasons we produce content – to increase web traffic, further our brand, or educate the public. But if our goal is to create something meaningful and memorable for our readers, weaving in our personal experiences is non-negotiable. Why? Because all communication is about developing a relationship with the person on the other end of the transmission. The driest of material still requires the author to be a trusted source. Letters behind your name are one way to establish credibility, but relatability creates an emotional connection that your reader can’t ignore.
Humanizing ourselves to our readers (or anyone, really) unites us. When we share stories about meaningful events in our lives, even when we’re delivering material that is technical or professional in nature, the information we’re sharing becomes relevant not just to a “reader” but another human being.
Creating “humanized” content that connects with your readers’ emotions is not about manipulation – it’s about creating content that is relatable to someone. As one becomes so mired in the “mechanics” of what they are doing, they don’t naturally think of a story when they set out to educate their audience. But not being a natural-born storyteller doesn’t mean you can’t learn the skill. If you believe that the work you do or the lessons you’ve discovered could make an impact on the life of someone else, including personal stories with outlines of the principles you ascribe to is irreplaceable. After all, everyone wants to be interesting, right?