Tell a Story, Change a Life

Ali and Max 2000
Ali and Max 2000

Christmas morning, 2000. Max was 3 and Ali was 6. Our tradition had been (and still is) that Randy headed down stairs to turn on the tree lights and grab the video camera. Then Ali, Max and I march down stairs for the big ‘reveal’ of the tree and all it’s splendor, the gifts waiting to be opened, the bursting full stockings, and – of course – the plate of crumbs and empty glass of milk left by Santa.



Ali and Max stood side by side, eyes wide open and smiles bigger than their faces, saying some version of ‘Santa came, Santa was here!’.

Randy began to ask questions (for our video collection which Randy and I are pretty sure we will spend our retirement going over and over and over!!).

‘So, did anyone hear anything on the rooftop last night?’

‘Yes, yes , yes!!’ says Ali.

‘I heard footsteps and I also heard some clicking sounds – I think it was Santa and Rudolph!!’

‘Then I heard some crunching sounds and drinking sounds – like chew, chew, chew and glug, glug, glug – it was Santa eating the treat we left him! He must have liked it – look, it’s all gone!’

Max’s eyes got even bigger as he listened to Ali describe all of the sounds she heard.

‘Me too…that is what I heard! I heard Santa and Rudolph too! I did!!!!’ ?Enthusiasm and conviction radiated from his every pore!

I can remember that morning as clear as a bell. As Ali described the story of what she had ‘experienced’, Max was also living that story. Just like maybe you are experiencing a similar story from your life, just by reading this one from mine.

Leo Wildrich wrote a blog post called What listening to a story does to our brains. ?In that post, Leo shares:

“When we tell stories to others that have really helped us shape our thinking and way of life, we can have the same effect on them too. The brains of the person telling a story and listening to it, can synchronize, says?Uri Hasson?from Princeton:

?When the woman spoke English, the volunteers understood her story, and their brains synchronized.? When she had activity in her insula, an emotional brain region, the listeners did too.? When her frontal cortex lit up, so did theirs.?By simply telling a story, the woman could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners? brains.?

Anything you?ve experienced, you can get others to experience the same. Or at least, get their brain areas that you?ve activated that way, active too.

That’s what happened when Ali told her story of Santa and Rudolph; Max’s brain synchronized with hers. ?She, in essence, gave him his first gift that Christmas morning!

Brains love stories. ?When we hear a story, we relate it to our own experience and that helps the story to ‘stick’ in our minds.

Leo adds four tips for using stories as a communication tool: 1) Tell stories that reflect something important you’d like the listener to think, feel or do (their brain will turn the story into something from their own experience – and it will become ‘their’ story); 2) Write using stories – your own or those of another expert to persuade your audience; 3) Keep your stories simple (less complex stories are ‘stickier’), and 4) Use colorful, emotional words in your stories (some words or phrases like ‘a bad day’ or ‘be responsible’ are overused and begin to lack meaning for people and, thus, lack ‘stickiness’).

So, as the holiday season approaches, what stories can you share – at home and at work? I’d love to hear one of your stories from holidays past (and my brain will definitely thank you – as will the brains of everyone else who reads your story!) ?Let’s spread some good holiday storytelling cheer!!



Immunize Your Organization Against Negativity

positivity=productivityI just had my flu shot – the last couple of years the Government of Canada has recommended that we ‘Get the Shot, Not the Flu’. The purpose of an immunization – although it is not guaranteed – is to provide yourself with as much protection as possible from contracting the influenza virus (which can be very nasty and long-lasting – in addition to being highly contagious). I ran into a doctor friend of mine who said that last year she and her family missed the shot, and they were ‘down’ for about 2 months in total as the flu made it’s way through their home.

So, if we can immunize ourselves from the nasty effects of influenza with a vaccine, what can you do to immunize yourself and your organization against negativity (which can absolutely be nasty – and contagious – costing you and your organization time, energy, and money)?

Here are a few ideas to keep in mind. The prescription is a daily dose of P.O.S.I.T.I.V.E.:

is for Present: This is about more than just showing up, it’s about really being there in mind and body. Something that can help you be fully present is to remember to take regular breaks, and during your breaks be mindful to how you are feeling, and what you are thinking. If you are more present, you’ll help to encourage everyone in your organization to do the same.

O is for Optimistic: What are you thinking? Literally. Is your internal dialogue filled with hope and possibility? Do you speak about setbacks as temporary, and as opportunities to learn? Change your internal and external dialogue and notice what new things you notice.

S is for Shared: Ensure that everyone in your organization has a voice. Your culture is shared – whether you know it or not – so why not make sure you seek out the voice that works FOR you, rather than falling victim to the one that might work AGAINST you.

I is for Intentional: Do not leave your organizational culture to chance. Be intentional about what you want to create – within your organization, and outside in the community and world in which you exist.

T is for Thank-full: Gratitude is the #1 strategy for happiness (which equates to energy and productivity in organizational terms). Look for ways to be grateful each day. (Start each meeting with a reflection on what’s good in your organization; at the end of the day, notice one thing for which you are thankful that day, etc.). And, of course, let the people in your life know how grateful you are for them.

I is for Inspired: Allow everyone in the organization to see – every day – how they are part of something bigger than themselves. Help them to see just how connected we all are.

V is for Vulnerable: According to Dr. Brene Brown, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. Need I say more? Be yourself, try new things, make mistakes and talk about them – get real with people around you. You – and they – will be glad you did.

E is for Energized: If you do something from each of the above every day, you’ll be energized! On top of that, remember these other things that are not only good for your body, they are good for your mind; smile (even a fake one has positive effects), eat well (most of the time – in grade 5, my son learned about the 80/20 rule…eat until you are 80% full, make healthy choices 80% of the time…makes sense to me), drink water, and move as much as you can (hop, jump, run, walk, dance).

What do you do to immunize yourself and your organization against negativity? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! She is one of fewer than 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), the international measure of excellence for professional competence, proven experience, and optimal client satisfaction. Deri combines a business degree in human resources management with 20 years of experience engaging audiences across every business sector. Deri provides inspiration and information to create psychologically healthy organizations for increased positivity, productivity, and profitability!


S.N.A.P. into Holiday Fun!

Max as Rudolph

It’s the holidays! ?For some of us, getting to a sense of fun and joy at this time of year is easy.For others, rather than ‘Yipee, what fun!’, you might be thinking ‘Bah, humbug!!’.

Here’s a little holiday acronym to help you S.N.A.P. into Holiday Fun!

S – See Yourself

Take a moment and close your eyes. ?Create a picture of the kind of person you want to be for the holiday season. ?What are you doing? ?What are you saying? ?What are you seeing? ?What are you feeling? ?What do others see when they look at you? ?Spend some time creating the most clear and compelling picture possible of the desired holiday-you.

N – Navigate a Path

Now that you have a clear picture of your holiday self, think about what ‘story’ the holiday-you might be ruminating on. What are your dominant thoughts? ?What are you focusing on? ?What are you saying to yourself ? ?What feelings are most prevalent for holiday-you? What is holiday-you doing?

A – Assume Control

Make a decision to choose holiday-you. ?Each morning recall your picture…and keep adding detail to it. Keep thinking, seeing, hearing, feeling and behaving like holiday-you.

And, when something happens that seems to be encroaching on your holiday fun, assume control by choosing to A.C.T.😕Accept your current situation, Choose a vision of what you want in that moment, and Take action to achieve your vision.

For example: ?Let’s say you are merrily preparing for holiday company to arrive. ?You’ve cleaned the house, you’ve carefully selected your favorite holiday sweater to wear, and you are just about to take the souffle out of the oven. ?Suddenly, everything changes. ?The souffle falls, the dog comes running in with dirty paws, and you turn around to notice the mess the kids have made doing holiday crafts in the living room. ?You then remember to A.C.T. ?You say to yourself, ‘I accept that things are not perfect, as I had hoped (A). ?I want to enjoy our company when they arrive, and serve the rest of the food with pride (C). I will smile, breathe, remind myself that I’ll have a better time if I relax, ask the kids to engage in a contest to see who can follow the dog and clean his paws the fastest – for a fresh cookie treat, and hang the new craft project on the fridge (T).

P – Press On

There will be challenges along the way – both big and small. ?Remind yourself to keep them in perspective, and to focus on all the positive aspects of the holidays. ?And jump in to ‘play’ a game or two. ?If FUN were an acronym, it might mean?Fierce, Uninhibited, Nonsense. ?It’s supposed to be silly.

Last year we played a game at a family dinner over the holidays. ?We were divided into teams and each team received a pair of panty hose and a package of small balloons. ?We were told to create Rudolph using just the supplies we had – and the first team to finish was the winner. ?The photo at the top of this post is my son Max modelling our team’s creation. ?I cannot remember if we won or not, but I definitely remember that we had fun!

Today a colleague posted this video on facebook. ?I cannot resist sharing it with you here. ?Another strategy to S.N.A.P. into Holiday Fun is to look for what’s good about the holidays. ?This video felt so good to watch, especially after the very sad report that we all heard yesterday from Connecticut. ?It restored my faith in humanity, and I hope it does the same for you.

My wish for you this holiday season is simple…choose to be HAPPY. ?Hold your loved ones near, Appreciate them, Participate in life, Practice kindness, and Yuck it up as much as you can!

Deri Latimer, B Mgt, CSP, is an expert in positive possibilities for people! She is one of fewer than 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of Certified Speaking Professional. Deri combines a Business degree in Human Resources with experience from business sectors including health care, manufacturing, education, agriculture, government, mining, transportation, tourism, and professional services. Deri provides practical strategies for mental health ‘at work’; impacting individuals and organizations?to increase resilience to change, energize engagement with the organization, and propel meaningful performance results that last!??