Tips & tricks of being a better storyteller: Making your story relatable

“I can relate to that!”

Joyce never knew her grandparents. That lack of connection inspired her choice of careers. At age 12, she decided she wanted to be a nurse who specialized in elder care so she could “treat every patient as if they were my grandparents.” Before Joyce could attend college, she became a single mom and her family’s sole provider, but she didn’t let go of her dream of becoming a nurse. With the help of her local adult school, Joyce earned her vocational nursing license. She went on to become a Registered Nurse, dedicated to helping seniors. Now, she’s also teaching future nurses at a vocational center, giving back to students. “I want them to have the encouragement they may have never had,” she says. Her students can relate to her, and vice versa.

And that’s also the secret to good storytelling. Such connections make listeners think, “I can relate to that.”

That reaction is a primary goal for effective storytelling. Readers can see themselves in the situation portrayed or can sympathize with what people say or do. That relatability opens doors to understanding and action.

“Relatability” is the quality of being easy to understand — vital for any storyteller — and to generate sympathy or empathy for its subject. Many communication experts consider relatability the first step toward great storytelling — and winning over your audience.

Why is relatability such a powerful hook? It invites the reader’s emotional investment. And readers tend to remember stories, ideas or basic facts if there’s an emotional tie attached. Relatability shows the reader that you as the storyteller understand and appreciate them.

For readers to see themselves in a story, the storyteller first needs to know who’s reading. You can’t relate to your readers if you don’t know who they are. Identify your audience. Who are they? Where do they live and work? What do they care about? What are their struggles? How are they coping? Then, tell a story that mirrors their lives or experiences.

Make sure that relatability is also relevant. Why does this story matter now? A relatable anecdote may get someone to start reading a story, but it also needs to lead to a relevant conclusion to truly be impactful with your audience.

That conclusion is what you want your reader to take away from the story; what you want them to remember and to do. If the reader can relate to the story being told, they’ll be more likely to take the action you desire.

Relatable stories have another benefit; they build trust in your brand. The more readers see themselves in your stories, the more they relate to you as a storyteller — and the more they want to read.