Tell first person stories to advocate for yourself

“Tell your own story and you will be interesting.”   -Louise Bourgeois

A big “Yes, Orlando!” to the wonderful people from the Diversity and Tech community at Microsoft Ignite. A big “Ugh, Orlandon’t” to the humidity. So let’s focus on the positive. During my session about how to tell persuasive stories to self-advocate, about a dozen attendees stood up and shared personal stories. While their content varied, many shared a behavior in their delivery; they told personal stories in the third person. This behavior is a no-go in self-advocacy.

Talking about yourself in the third person is confusing, not humble

You’re no braggart. It can feel awkward and indulgent to talk about yourself. But you don’t need to be an illeist, talking about yourself in the third person, either.

“I wanted to do what was best for LeBron James and what would make him happy.”   -LeBron James

If you talk about yourself as a separate person, however comforting it may feel, you’ll confuse or alienate your audience.

Write your story in third person and then tell it in first person

Here’s a workaround. Write your story as if someone else is talking about you. Third person is fine while you draft and might even put you in a clearer headspace.

For example, step one would be Jane Doe practicing to herself, “The XYZ team was struggling with their campaign launch and then Jane pitched in with her expertise on [Jane’s contribution] and with her help, they managed to get XYZ out the door on time.”

Then when it’s time for Jane too share her story with someone, like asking her manager for a raise, she would tell it in first-person. In front of her manager, Jane could say,  “I’d like to tell you the story of how the XYZ team was struggling with their campaign launch and I pitched in with expertise on [Jane’s contribution] and together we managed to get XYZ out the door on time.”

Put yourself in a supporting role if you don’t like the spotlight

You need to own your part in your stories. For those times when you don’t want to be the center of your stories, talk about how you contributed to another’s well-being. How were you someone’s counselor, advocate, workhorse, etc.? Once you have your role figured out, make sure you’re clear about how you were essential. Otherwise, you’ll need to find out why you’re missing in your own story.

Highlighting your contribution isn’t showing off, it’s self-advocacy

If you’re talking about yourself to show how you contribute and connect with your audience, it’s not showing off. Remember what our friend Ms. Bourgeois says and tell your own story. You ARE interesting.


Image by Arturo Espinosa from barcelona, Cataluña (España) (Louise Bourgeois) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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