We are storytellers who capture and convey the essence of companies, events, people and experiences.
We are comfortable asking for personal stories, listening and probing to extract what we need to weave a narrative that resonates with our audiences.
We’ve all seen the power of personal stories in recent news.
What happens when the spotlight turns on us, the professional communicator?
It is uncomfortable, even frightening, to sit on the other side of that table. Sharing life-changing personal stories requires vulnerability; a willingness to expose what you’ve previously chosen to keep to yourself. You don’t know how people will react and must decide whether the risk is worth it.
I was faced with that decision in September 2016 when I was asked by CMHA Calgary (Canadian Mental Health Association) to tell my story. It was about denial, shame and fear culminating to a dark and scary 30 month period; at times, I wasn’t sure I’d survive. The full story had only been known to family and close friends. Writing a blog post about it, often through tears, was one of the most difficult things I have done.
It was also one of the best things I’ve done.
The process of building a compelling narrative, helped me put perspective on the experience, forced me to examine the good changes and helped me move forward. Once published, it opened the door for others to respond with their experiences and became a catalyst for deep discussions.
I believe the power of telling your story can far exceed most risk. In recognition of the mental health conversations happening over the next week, I choose to share my story with you, my fellow communicators.
Shelly Nowroski is IABC/Calgary’s Director of Finance and the Principal of Illuminate Consulting Group.