In my work with entrepreneurs and companies who want to get better at telling their story, I see patterns emerging. The companies who have a mechanism for finding, owning and sharing their stories, build strong cultures. I believe there are parallels between what I’ve witnessed in organisations and research into how stories make individuals stronger.
Almost a decade ago, researchers from Emory University published the findings of a study about the impact of knowing family history on children. Up until then, the effect of intergenerational stories on children’s wellbeing had not been measured.
The Emory researchers set out to do that, using what they called, the ‘Do You Know Scale’—a list of twenty questions about family history.
Unsurprisingly, they discovered that; ‘teens who knew more stories about their extended family showed ‘higher levels of emotional well-being, and also higher levels of identity achievement, even when controlling for general level of family functioning.’
Following the publication of a New York Times article that mentioned the study, the researchers were inundated with requests for the twenty questions. Many readers assumed they’d make their children resilient by simply teaching them the answers to the questions.
But as Marshall P Duke, one of the researchers pointed out. ‘Correlation is not causation. Simply knowing the answers to questions will not produce the good outcomes. It is not what is known that is the critical factor, but how the children came to know it. The researchers believe the process of making time to sit with each other and share stories is the causational factor.’
The bottom line is we build more resilient families, companies and communities when we know who we are. We get stronger together when we prioritise finding, owning and sharing our stories.
If you’d like to work on your story, find out more about The Story Skills Workshop I’m launching in collaboration with Seth Godin soon.
Image by Marissa Price