How to Make a Third Person Story Personal

I always advise my coaching clients to use personal stories whenever possible. Personal stories establish credibility by letting your listener know that your wisdom comes from your life experience, rather than from reading the latest book.

Personal stories also reveal something about you as an individual. The stories you choose to share, and the way you tell them, provide a glimpse into your personality. People like to know who you are before they decide whether or not they can trust you. Personal stories are a great way to build that bridge to trust.

Your personal stories are always going to be your most powerful stories simply because you were there and can see, feel and re-create them more vividly than third person stories. Sometimes however, you’ll discover a third person story that’s a perfect fit for what you are trying to accomplish.

The Third-Person Story

In a third person story, the narrator or storyteller is talking about someone else’s experience. They are telling someone else’s story. The storyteller uses the words: “he”, “she”, and “they” when talking about the characters, and does not use the word “I” because the storyteller is not actually in the story. As an example, in one of my keynotes, I wanted to make a point about the need for relentless determination to achieve great things. The example I chose to use was Steven Spielberg’s story. If you are not familiar with his story, you might think his success came easy, but after you’ve heard what he had to do to get his foot in the door, you’ll understand why his story is a great example of relentless determination.

I like to use third person stories to lend credibility to the points that I’m making. The challenge is to tie the third person story back to you and the lessons you want to teach. It’s all well and good that someone else has done something impressive and inspiring, but that can leave you on the outside looking in.

Remember Paul Harvey on the radio? He was a great storyteller. His famous tag line was…”And now, the rest of the story.” I believe that’s what’s missing from most third-party stories - the rest of the story - the bridge between the third-person story and your story.

Let’s say your daughter was home from college on Christmas Break, and told you about an experience she had on the soccer team. It’s a story about teamwork and playing your part, being a “supporting role” player rather than a star. You tell her story, and at the end of the story you make the point, “Play Your Part.”

Most storytellers would move on from there to the next point. Not so fast. Your listener is a business professional. The lesson a teenager learns from playing soccer is a great metaphor for teamwork in business, but it will be far more powerful if you connect it to your own experience as an adult in a specific business context.

Build a Bridge

Now you can segue into a short story that will draw a parallel to your daughter’s story, but in the context of adults in business (or another adult context).

Here’s one option: You can share an experience in which your daughter’s lesson later affected the way you chose to act. Using a phrase like, “Two months after my daughter told me this story, I was in a corporate team meeting, and her words came back to me, ringing in my ear.” You then tell a brief story about a corporate team you were on where too many team members wanted to be the star and not enough people wanted to be role players.

Another option is to reflect back to a past experience in which your daughter’s lesson would have been helpful to you. Using a phrase like, “My daughter’s story reminded me of an experience I had a few years earlier, when I was on a corporate team.” Then you tell about how challenging it was, and that if only you had chosen to “play your part,” the team would have been more effective.

This is what I mean by, “the rest of the story.” Your daughter’s story was used to set up your story. Also, in the first part of the third-party story, your audience gets to relate to you as a caring dad, which makes you likeable. In the second part, they relate to you as the credible business professional with practical business experience. They get to learn the lesson from your daughter’s story, and see how it affected your experience.

Your personal story, that follows the third-person story, reveals how the lesson the other person learned has application in your life and in the world of business.

The next time you’re telling a third-person story, make it personal with, “the rest of the story.”

Author's Bio: 

Doug Stevenson, president of Story Theater International, is a storytelling in business expert. He is the creator of The Story Theater Method and the author of the book, Doug Stevenson’s Story Theater Method.

His keynote, training and executive coaching clients include Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Lockheed Martin, Oracle, Bristol Myers Squibb, Wells Fargo, Amgen, Volkswagen, Century 21, The Department of Defense, The National Education Association and many more.

His 10 CD - How to Write and Deliver a Dynamite Speech audio learning system is a workshop in a box. It contains an 80-page follow along workbook. Learn more at:

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Doug can be reached at 1-800-573-6196 or 1-719-573-6195. Learn more about the Story Theater Method, purchase the book, eBook or Story Theater audio six pack, and sign-up for the free Story Theater newsletter at: