If you’re in certain types of coaching or consulting, you may need to tell your “sticky stories” occasionally.

You might think we could avoid doing this here on Carol’s blog, but in fact, we have posted some fiercely personal – and some might say dark – content over the years.

Content that might be emotionally triggering needs to be handled with care. Shame and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown has shared many personal stories in her content, but she cautions that she (and you) “should not share a story while you’re still bleeding from it.”

What does that mean?

If you’re looking for some kind of reaction or validation from sharing it, it’s too soon to share it because you haven’t healed yet.

If your story is particularly traumatic, you may need to work it out with your therapist, if you have one, or with friends / family. After that, you will be able to share it in a way that serves (not traumatizes) your audience.

Celebrating a life

When Carol’s father passed away unexpectedly, I wrote the post for the blog because she was grieving. (Being Rich Isn’t All About Money)

When Carol and I lost a colleague too soon after she experienced escalating health issues, I found myself thinking entrepreneurs need to come together to remember and honor losing one of our own, in the way people who fought together might. (When We Lose One of Our Own)

From an engagement point of view, these posts where widely shared and elicited heartfelt responses, and some tears.

Acknowledging big challenges

Authenticity and vulnerability are words that are overused, but they are still important.

I would argue they will make – or break – your business.

Especially in coaching, prospective clients want to know you understand what they are going through. There is no faster way to demonstrate you know what a prospect is feeling and how to help them than by sharing a personal story.

However, the story you need to share to show expertise and empathy might not be a pretty one.

Part of what I do is help my clients work through anxiety and depression related to career and life transitions. Some of my clients are in a really dark place when they reach out. Sharing the story of my dark night of the soul where I seriously considered taking my life gives me immediate credibility with someone who is in that headspace.

When I wrote about my dark night, I shared it with Carol in advance to get her approval to post it here on the blog.

I honestly thought she would decline it, but she did the opposite. She thought it was incredibly important information and urged me to publish it under my own name. She added I could publish it anonymously or under her name, if I needed to.

I published it under my name: Depression and the Small Business Owner.

The outpouring from other entrepreneurs admitting they had been there was nothing short of staggering.

And instead of losing clients, I got two new clients that week who said it was the line in my story about being stuck in the parking lot with a dead battery and sinking into despair that made them commit to working with me. They felt I understood where they were and would not judge them.

Even the most successful people you admire have worked through giant challenges and experienced major setbacks. I know this because I actively look for these stories – near bankruptcy, actual bankruptcy, death in the family, contentious divorce, health diagnosis, business failure, bad business breakup, layoff – this is the world we live in.

So, I recommend you share your sticky stories – but only do so after you’ve healed, and in a way that serves your audience and your business.