“I will let them tell their stories”. This is usually how I stop myself from sharing someone else’s stories. And the reason I do that is because I’m conscious of the fact that each of us should be able to tell their own stories on their own terms. However, it might sometimes happens that you have to share someone else’s story. How to do that while honouring the responsibility you are given? To answer this question I’ve compiled a six-step guide to sharing other people stories.
Six-Step Guide To Share Someone Else’s Story
1 – Consent
Rule number is a conditio sine qua non: it’s not negotiable. You need to have consent. If you are an avid consumer of Netflix, you surely noticed how many sex scene is preceded by some form of “is this ok?”
You want to do that too when sharing someone else’s story. Do not share someone’s story if they haven’t given you written or verbal consent to do so. It might also get you in trouble legally. And most importantly, it’s not ethical.
2 – Don’t Play Hide And Seek
Sometimes it’s easy to tell someone’s story to really talk about ours: we hide behind their stories because we are afraid or insecure about our own stories. I get it.
And while it’s great that your story aligns to someone else’s, it’s not healthy to use their story as a shield to hide behind. Instead, mention someone story and openly admit that it resonates with you. If it makes you feel vulnerable even better, chances are you are sharing those stories to connect on a human level anyway.
3 – Accuracy
One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt as a journalist was to be accurate: get the right name, check the pronouns, double check the date, get the timeline right.
It’s a great responsibility to share someone else’s story and I know you want to do a good job. Part of doing that comes down to be very accurate. When in doubt don’t be afraid to double check facts with the person.
4 – It’s Not About You
Yes, I did say that you can share someone else’s story and say that it resonates with yours. But be careful not to overdo it. If you are talking about someone’s story there is a reason and you want to focus on that.
5 – Purpose
Sharing someone else’s story is a responsibility, have I mentioned that? 🙂 Which is why you have to crystal clear on why you want to do it. Ask yourself: what do I want to happen as a result of me sharing this story?
And no, it’s not enough to say “I want to give a platform to this person”. If that’s your answer, then ask yourself: why do I want to give a platform to this person?
Keep asking yourself these questions until you get to the bottom of the purpose.
Sharing for the sake of sharing does not help you and does not help the person who’s sharing their story.
6 – Delivery
I once had a client who didn’t want their real name to appear in a national magazine but still wanted to be interviewed. Guess what the journalist said? Fine.
Because the story is not yours, you have to accept that the person might not like certain types of deliver it. Ask them: what would work you?
This is what will help you to put them and their story at the centre of your narration in an ethical way.
Done! Consider these six steps when you are going to share a story that it’s not yours and you will be sharing it in a way that is ethical, human-centred and respectful.