The Ultimate Guide to Relatable Storytelling

Tired of your story sounding cliché? Be "similar" AND "different" at the same time. Make people say: "Your story reminds me of the time when I..." (similar) and "I thought I was the ONLY one!" (different).


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I’m not sure if you noticed, but I’m like the LEAST “well-spoken” person.

I have the vocabulary of a 12 year old. My grammar’s all wrong. I’m like always like saying like “like” a lot. Plus I’m constantly rambling…

I’m the “worst storyteller ever!”

But people say I’m a good storyteller. 🤷‍♂️

Well, it took me awhile to realize that good storytelling has NOTHING to do with using fancy words or sounding like a literary expert.

It has to do with making your story relatable.

And today, I’ll show you a few ways you can do exactly that!

First, how do you know if a story is relatable?

If you’ve ever shared a secret with someone, you know that secrets can create a bond. It’s that feeling of knowing you’re the only 2 people in the world who knows this secret.

You can create this same bond with your audience by telling them a story that makes them say:

“Holy shit, that happened to me too! I thought I was the ONLY one!”

In fact, making someone say that is the ultimate litmus test for writing a relatable story.

To do this, your story has to be relatable, but more importantly, it has to be “unique” enough that they’ve never heard anyone else say it.

So how do you do that? Here are 4 tips:

1. Don’t TRY to be vulnerable

Whenever I go to a self-help seminar or retreat, there’s always that one person who makes everyone feel uncomfortable by sharing some tragic story about their abusive relationship or suicide attempt. They’re actually “eager” to share these stories.

Well guess what?

If you’re too “eager” to share a story, it’s probably not vulnerable. In fact, it’s an attention-seeking behavior.

Not to mention it’s not relatable for most people…

A story doesn’t have to have some huge tragedy for it to be vulnerable. It can even come from a simple everyday moment.

Vulnerability comes from NOT knowing how people will react.

For example, I was telling my friends about a moment at an event where everyone had to go around introducing themselves:

I was afraid to stand up and speak, but I also didn’t want to be lame. So I planned out the “witty” things I was gonna say.
But then one by one people who went before me would say what I was planning to say!
I started overthinking the shit out it, then when my turn came I stood up and gave some basic intro (not even remembering what I said).
Then after I sat back down, I got frustrated at myself thinking “damn it, I should’ve said THIS instead”…

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I felt vulnerable telling that story because I didn’t know if people were gonna think I’m a weirdo.

Am I the only one who does this?

Are people gonna judge me for being fake?

That uncertainty is what makes it vulnerable.

2. Stop using “thought verbs” to tell a story

Most people don’t actually tell a story. They just “describe” their story using thought verbs like: thought, knew, understood, realized, believed, felt, remembered, imagined, loved, etc.

Here’s an example:

I felt like an imposter. Everyone thought I was this perfect yogi who lived a lifestyle of health and wellness, but I believed I didn’t live up to their expectations.

Boooooring! 🥱

That just sounds like every other story out there.

Thought verbs make your story “vague”, which is safe.

The more comfortable you become with being “specific”, the more vulnerable and original your story will be.

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So how do you fix it?

Draw a clear picture of what “felt like an imposter” looks like:

After my yoga class, I went around the back and smoked a cigarette, then I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth and washed my face before meeting my friends so they won’t smell it.

Most people don’t want to give the “juicy details” because it makes the story very real in the audience’s mind.

They can clearly imagine you doing that embarrassing thing and it feels like they’re judging you more.

But that’s exactly what makes it more original, which is what makes people say “I thought I was the only one who did that!”

That’s the moment when instant bond is created.

3. Telling a sob story

The other day, I read a story on Twitter that went like this:

When I was young, nobody wanted to play with me because I was weird, but I didn’t care.
Eventually I found other weird kids that nobody wanted to play with and we formed our own tribe.
Lesson: be yourself and find your own tribe.

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This is a great example of a story that seems like it’s a hero’s journey, but it’s not because there’s no journey from “victim” to “hero”.

There’s no internal transformation of the character.

It sound like a sob story where YOU did nothing wrong and you’re just complaining about the whole world:

“I was a hero before and I’m still a hero. Everyone else is the villain”

Well… that’s when you start to grow resentment for the world and sound like a villain.

It’s the typical “victim to villain” story.

A good example of this is the movie Joker.

In order to make it a hero story, you have to figure out what YOU did wrong as a result of being the victim.

Here’s an example of how you fix it:

When I was young, nobody wanted to play with me, because I was weird. But I wanted the popular kids to hang out with me, so I tried to dress like them and talk like them.
I even made fun of my own sister so they would accept me.
I became one of the mean girls.
But it was exhausting because I wasn’t being myself at all. So I gave up trying to fit in and decided to be my weird self again.
That’s when I found a tribe of other weird kids like me.
Lesson: be yourself and find your own tribe.

A victim becomes a villain unless they decide to make a change and become a hero:

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To fix this, try to follow this story structure:

I used to be _____ 👈 insert the old you

Until one day _____ 👈 insert the conflict

I learned that _____ 👈 insert the lesson + new you

4. Not having an external or internal trigger

One of the members in my community told me his 5-second moment:

When I was on my honeymoon, one of the places we visited was a hiking trail that ended with a cliff dive.
I was afraid of height, but I looked down and realized I needed to face my fear, so I jumped.
It was the most amazing experience.

Something didn’t add up for me.

People don’t “just realize” something out of nowhere. Usually there’s an external or internal trigger.

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Usually the trigger is something embarrassing, so most people skip over that part. They want to believe that they did it “all by themselves”.

So I told him “something’s not adding up… you didn’t HAVE to jump”

He finally admitted that it was because his newlywed wife was there watching and he “didn’t want her to think she married a wuss”.

I couldn’t believe he left that part out. It’s the best part of the story!

That was a great example of an external trigger.

Another member told me this story:

My boyfriend and I were riding in a mountain bike trail and I couldn’t keep up anymore.
He was already way ahead of me and I was about to give up, get off my bike and just walk up.
At that moment I realized I didn’t want to be a quitter, so I told myself “you have to do this” and I pushed myself to the end.

Again, something didn’t add up for me.

I said to her “you didn’t just tell yourself that out of nowhere”.

Through a lot of questioning, I found out that she had a “snow white complex”. She was always looking for a man to come “save” her and this caused her to give up on a lot of her dreams.

She knew if she walked up the mountain, her boyfriend would be up there ready to “save her” again.

This gave her a flashback of all the dreams she gave up and that scared her enough to push forward.

That was an example of an internal trigger.

If you’re telling a story where you just came to a realization without a trigger, you’re probably leaving something out.

Dig deeper and see what that is.

Usually it’s the best part of the story.

Want more tips like these?

Yesterday, I recorded a 1-hour masterclass called “Storytelling Basics”.  Night Owl Nation members  have access to the replay (plus all of the classes I’ve ever taught).

We also meet every week in Small Groups and practice telling stories like the examples I gave today.

I highly recommend you join.

It’s $5/mo (and I promise, it’s way better than Netflix).

Until next time, cheers! 👋

– Sun

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