Many years ago Dave, my college instructor and mentor when I worked in the Correctional System, said, “Stories connect people.” This was 1984 and this mentor moment has become one of the foundations of my life and business.

I quickly learned in my first week of working on the violent offenders unit that everyone has a story. These stories give us insight into a person’s life and his/her choices and help us connect in a way that can transform lives and pave new futures.  

Jerry, an inmate who had spent more of his life on the inside of the bars than the outside, was an incredible artist. This inmate was verbally abusive and physically aggressive to staff and other inmates. Shifts on his cell block unit were ones I did not look forward to.

One afternoon, I noticed him sketching on the back of a napkin. His art was compelling, emotive, and told a story… a story that told a different side to Jerry. This drawing (and many others) became the door to building trust and respect with Jerry. It also became the outlet for him to deal with the issues that led to him spending half a lifetime in jail. It is a strange lesson that to learn peace he had to go to prison.

I kept that nugget about “stories connect people” front of mind many years later when I opened my own dispute resolution company.

As a mediator, I again discovered that stories help build understanding between people in conflict, and stories also became the bridge to some of the most difficult relationship building processes. Stories connected people. While they may see the world differently and their life experiences are nowhere close to similar, there are always touch points in stories where people connect.  

Fast forward to Raise a Dream, a business I co-founded with serial entrepreneur Rebecca Kirstein. Every day, we see in the work we do with entrepreneurs and our programs that stories connect the audience.

Stories are also what connect entrepreneurs to sponsors. When corporate sponsors are considering backing a project, it is the story behind why you do what you do that helps build a more meaningful (and often more immediate) connection with the sponsor.

As you meet people through your business, at networking events, etc. remember that stories connect people.  

Charmaine Hammond, Raise a Dream