Do you know how sometimes there’s a synchronicity and you’re not sure what it all means yet, but you know it means something?
That happened to me.
A few months ago, I was asked if I would speak at a college event called “Your Best 10.” They asked 10 people to speak for 10 minutes on a topic they are passionate about. After a lot of thought, I decided to talk about the importance of sharing stories. After all, I am a peddler of stories, as a history professor, I feel like that’s a lot of my class and a lot of my life.
But it took me a long time, perhaps too long, to realize that my story was important too. I always thought that my story wasn’t worth telling. But a lot of research has been done recently that shows that telling your story is both healing for you, and creates connection and empathy with the person listening to the story, even if that person is not in the room with you. That is why programs like “Story Corps” or “The Moth” are so successful on the radio. People like to be told stories, and they stay with you long after the story itself is over.
Two weeks ago, I was at a meeting for the Family Advisory Council at Massachusetts General Hospital. The speaker was a woman named Dr. Annie Brewster. She is a doctor who has started a non-profit organization called Health Story Collaborative. It’s a non-profit that facilitates a patient telling his or her story with a person that they can talk to, and audio equipment with which to record the conversation.
Then people can listen to your story in a sound booth or online.
But, what if the person you are telling your story to is your doctor, and the story you are telling is about your health journey? Wouldn’t that create connections and empathy with someone whom you really want to connect?
This has become a movement in healthcare, encouraging healthcare professionals to take a few minutes and listen to their patients tell their stories, not just rely on the data presented. It has been used as a tool for residents and fellows. It is now part conferences for medical professionals.
I gave my speech for Your Best 10 yesterday.
Unrelated, today I got a phone call. I was asked to speak at a Patient Experience Summit at Massachusetts General Hospital. It’s funny how things work. First I speak about the importance of telling your story, and then , the very next day, I get a call to ask me to tell my story.
What’s funny is that I don’t think my story is any better or worse than any other story.
The difference is that, now, I’m willing to tell it.