Speechless – Tell Stories that Change the World

Chapter 05: How to tell difficult stories

June 27, 2023 Maryam Pasha & Simon Bucknall Season 1 Episode 9
Chapter 05: How to tell difficult stories
Speechless – Tell Stories that Change the World
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Speechless – Tell Stories that Change the World
Chapter 05: How to tell difficult stories
Jun 27, 2023 Season 1 Episode 9
Maryam Pasha & Simon Bucknall

Vulnerability. A sign of weakness? Or a powerful asset? Telling difficult stories means treading a fine line. Creating impact through use of stories and experiences that are vivid, credible and meaningful: Yes! Oversharing or manipulating an audience  in a misleading way? Not so much. In this episode of Speechless, Maryam Pasha and Simon Bucknall take you through how to stay on the right side of that line, when you decide to get seriously personal. 

Further listening: 

Show Notes Transcript

Vulnerability. A sign of weakness? Or a powerful asset? Telling difficult stories means treading a fine line. Creating impact through use of stories and experiences that are vivid, credible and meaningful: Yes! Oversharing or manipulating an audience  in a misleading way? Not so much. In this episode of Speechless, Maryam Pasha and Simon Bucknall take you through how to stay on the right side of that line, when you decide to get seriously personal. 

Further listening: 

[00:00:00] Maryam Pasha: You're listening to Speechless, the new podcast from storytelling experts Maryam Pasha and Simon Bucknell. Hit follow now to learn how to tell stories that change the world.

[00:00:18] Simon Bucknall: The Power of Vulnerability, Brené Brown, one of my favorite TED Talks, and it's of course a talk about how vulnerability is something that Yeah. Rather than view as some kind [00:00:30] of weakness. And this crops up a lot of my, a lot of my work and it has done in yours too with, with the, the, the nervousness around, around being vulnerable in one's communication, whether it is as a leader in front of the team or whether it is speaking at a conference or it's in conversations.

[00:00:44] Simon Bucknall: So we're going to explore that and, and, and, uh, unpick a little bit around what, what it takes to engage with vulnerability in a way that is appropriate, that's positive, that's meaningful. Um, and to stay on the right side of it. Uh, but there are many people that shy away from it [00:01:00] completely. I can't afford to, couldn't possibly show vulnerability.

[00:01:02] Simon Bucknall: It will show that I'm weak. So there's all sorts of assumptions around it. I'd love to know, what's your experience, Mariam, of this, working with speakers over the years? 

[00:01:10] Maryam Pasha: It's complex, you know, I think you're right. I'm always so, it was always such a surprise to me that that TED Talk by Rene Brown spoke to so many people, not because it's not an incredible talk, it is an incredible talk and she's an incredible speaker of it because I think it indicated something about how we were all so desperate to be able to actually talk about this, that it was something [00:01:30] that was at top of mind, I think, or something that people struggled with a lot.

[00:01:34] Maryam Pasha: And so obviously, That's relevant in lots of aspects of people's lives, but I think when it comes to speaking, being vulnerable is a really, it's a fine line for me. So when I think about this, I think about it in a couple of different ways. I think that there is the, the general vulnerability that comes from speaking about something you care about in front of other people because you're taking something that's deeply [00:02:00] held to you and you're now putting out in the world and that makes you vulnerable.

[00:02:04] Maryam Pasha: I think, and I think a lot of people feel that it makes them vulnerable. So 

[00:02:07] Simon Bucknall: just the, just feeling strongly personally about the topic, regardless of whether there is any trauma or difficulty or heartache involved, just 

[00:02:17] Maryam Pasha: strong feelings. Yeah, absolutely. Like if you've worked on something for many, many years and you're, you're putting it out there in the world in some way for, for other people's opinions, critiques, you know.

[00:02:27] Maryam Pasha: Um, I think people talk about it. It's like, you [00:02:30] know, just, it's like putting your child out there in the world. Right. But I think the other side of this, um, that I've, I've kind of worked with extensively with speakers is when the stories you tell are from some of the most difficult moments in your life.

[00:02:43] Maryam Pasha: Um, and that is again, a whole different kind of vulnerability and a, and a, and a deeply personal decision. I think when I think about this, when I speak about it, I think there's different levels here. So I think first is this decision. Like, I don't know if this is something you've [00:03:00] come across, but there are some speakers I've worked with who do have incredibly powerful personal stories and telling them has actually changed the world.

[00:03:11] Maryam Pasha: But I also caution people against feeling like they have to tell some kind of like traumatic, devastating story to even get the audience's attention, because that's not the kind of. Frankly, it's not the kind of world I want us to help create, right, is [00:03:30] where everyone feels like they have to reveal the lowest moment in their life just to get someone to even listen to them.

[00:03:36] Maryam Pasha: Um, so I think there's a delicate balance there, uh, between making that decision to say this thing happened to me, or I experienced this thing, or I've seen this thing out in the world, or this is, you know, it's been a part of my life, whatever that is that's difficult. And I now want to use that as a way of bringing about change versus, I feel like I'm [00:04:00] obligated to show the world my trauma.

[00:04:02] Simon Bucknall: Yes. Yes. That's interesting, isn't it? Because the, what, what, what would you say as a potential trap of focusing solely on traumatic experience? As you say, sometimes there are instances where there is a potentially traumatic story that needs to be told. And of course they can be hugely powerful. I know that you've met a number of speakers who have done exactly that from stage, but.

[00:04:27] Simon Bucknall: There is clearly a trap involved. So what's the what's [00:04:30] what's the risk where it goes wrong? What are the reasons 

[00:04:34] Maryam Pasha: for that? Do you think yeah, so where it goes wrong is when you don't want to tell this story But you feel like you have to so that's part of it is where it's like this pressure You know what to kind of feel like this is the only meaningful thing about you or the only meaningful thing You can say or the only way to get someone to listen to you.

[00:04:51] Maryam Pasha: And so You're telling it from a place of, not from a place of safety. So there's that. So how safe are you in [00:05:00] telling this story psychologically? Yes. Um, there's, what I also see it going wrong is where it feels very manipulative as a listener. So when you're in a conversation, let's say you're in a conversation, let's say you're like in an audience where someone is using and telling their personal story.

[00:05:15] Maryam Pasha: If it feels like you're being manipulated by it in some way, where it's not clear what the purpose of it is, where it's just there to make you feel sad or angry. That also, that feeling of being manipulated can also really turn people off. And I can go on and on with [00:05:30] examples, but they're all rooted in the same thing, which is truly questioning.

[00:05:34] Maryam Pasha: What is your motivation for telling this story and where does that come from? And what's the purpose 

[00:05:39] Simon Bucknall: for us? Yes. Yeah. Interesting. Yes. Because an audience has to know. That the speaker is at some level okay. With I say. Okay. As in they are, they are over the deep Yeah. Form. This is just because I, I you, yeah.

[00:05:56] Simon Bucknall: You remind of an instance, uh, some years [00:06:00] ago in which I, I saw a, it was actually in a speaking club environment where a speaker gave a very, very personal, in a motor speech about mental health and in specifically in relation to her mother for whom she was a carer. And partway through the speech for reasons that the audience members could absolutely understand, she broke down in tears.

[00:06:13] Simon Bucknall: Yeah. And, and it was clearly very, very distressing for. for her and of course the support from the audience was immediate and, and, and heartwarming. So it was, it was, it was profoundly moving as a moment. However, the speech was over because, because you know, the speech had ceased being, if you like for the benefit for, [00:06:30] but for the benefit of the audience and instead the audience was now feeling not just pathos for the speaker, but actually feeling a sense of real pity and so on.

[00:06:37] Simon Bucknall: And so then as soon as it becomes about the speaker, then it's game over, which is always the challenge with storytelling. I think when telling personal stories is that. As, as an audience member, uh, storytelling, personal storytelling is powerful, so long as the audience member knows that it is in the end for the audience's benefit, not for the speaker's own sense of self indulgence.

[00:06:53] Maryam Pasha: It's so interesting you talk about it in this way. We, when we're doing this curation at TEDxLondon, we think about, [00:07:00] um, whenever we're thinking about and working with speakers to help them bring these kinds of stories to stage, we really have a deep conversation with them right at the beginning to find out where they are in their journey.

[00:07:12] Maryam Pasha: Um, you know, we have met incredible speakers with incredible messages who are just too close to the things that have happened or are happening to them. And where we have, even with all the best intention had to say, [00:07:30] either we've pulled the plug or the speakers had to pull the plug because it's bringing up too much.

[00:07:36] Maryam Pasha: And, you know, we've had instances where speakers have decided to go back into therapy or, you know, um, And that's been the right decision for them and it's been the right decision to pause on their talk. So you have to be, I think, through it enough. And I know that's a luxury, even saying that. Um, otherwise I feel, so I, I see this and I have to say I see this out in the world and I feel like it's really irresponsible [00:08:00] when I see it.

[00:08:01] Maryam Pasha: When I see curators putting speakers on stage who are so definitely not through it. Because I think it's really exploitative and as deeply as that person might want to tell their story, if they're not ready yet, it can do a lot of harm. Um, but I want to flip this and tell you about someone who I think did tell a very traumatic story that was very difficult for her, but was like in the right place to tell it and was able to then leverage that to bring about real change.

[00:08:29] Maryam Pasha: So I think [00:08:30] these are all the pitfalls, but they're, as you said, there are great examples of where. It can be very powerful. Um, so, you know, in 2019, I got to work with this incredible young woman called Payzee Mahmod. Um, she was at the beginning of a campaign. Um, and she wanted to work with us to tell her story and.

[00:08:55] Maryam Pasha: Which I can, you know, go, go into, but we did some due diligence in the beginning, you know, and I [00:09:00] think you kind of, I, I talk about this from the perspective of a curator, but I think as from the perspective of just being an individual and making the decision to tell your story, if it's traumatic, you kind of have to do this due diligence for yourself.

[00:09:12] Maryam Pasha: Um, and so that was things like finding out, you know, why she wanted to tell this story. Whether telling the story would allow her to then use that as a tool in her campaigning, where the story was going, you know, 

[00:09:27] Simon Bucknall: So in a nutshell, what's her situation then? [00:09:30] So 

[00:09:32] Maryam Pasha: she was introduced to me through a colleague who works at an NGO.

[00:09:36] Maryam Pasha: Um, that works with survivors of honor violence and campaigns to end, you know, all forms of gender based violence, like honor, so called honor violence, child marriage, et cetera, FGM. And, you know, they were working with Paisley to start a campaign to end child marriage in the UK. Payzee herself was a survivor, [00:10:00] um, of having been, you know, married off to a man.

[00:10:02] Maryam Pasha: Multiple times her age when she was 16, she'd never really spoken about that when we first met, like she had done, you know, some small events, but she hadn't really, um, you know, gotten up on a stage in front of a large number of people and crafted, uh, uh, a talk that was 

[00:10:24] Simon Bucknall: being filmed and would be put onto 

[00:10:26] Maryam Pasha: YouTube.

[00:10:26] Maryam Pasha: Exactly, exactly the stakes in that sense, you know, she hadn't done a lot of [00:10:30] media at that point. Um, it was really the early days of the campaign, but she was adamant. And we talked a lot about, look, let's be really clear with what we're doing here. You know, I'm going to sit with you over the course of, you know, a few hours, and I'm going to have you tell me about the worst moments in your life in detail.

[00:10:51] Maryam Pasha: And then we're going to ruthlessly cut that down to the quote unquote highlights. And then [00:11:00] we're going to make you write it and then we're going to make you edit it as if it's like a piece of fiction and then we're going to make you say it over and over and over and over again. So you're basically going to read out loud and memorize your own trauma back at you.

[00:11:17] Maryam Pasha: For months, until it's so clear that when you get up on stage, you can deal with any of the emotion that might hit. And we were just very upfront 

[00:11:29] Simon Bucknall: about this. How did she [00:11:30] react to that, that setup? Because that's, uh, yeah, that's a pretty punchy and intense program that you've outlined there for her. What was her reaction?

[00:11:39] Maryam Pasha: She was like, I am 100% on board for this. I'm ready. And you know, she had been, you know, she was, I think about 10 years after, like, this was not like a few months. This is, she had had time to go through it. You know, we had the professionals of the charity that were working with her, who had expertise in working with survivors, you know, supporting her on the [00:12:00] other side.

[00:12:00] Maryam Pasha: So, you know, I was there helping her with the crafting of this talk, but she had experts helping her, uh, through all the things that this would bring up and She was very I think Appreciative that we were so clear about the process that she was consenting to something up front rather than it like Being forced on her later.

[00:12:21] Maryam Pasha: And I think that that's the the that's what talk about when I say due diligence, you know We did that with her But I think if you are thinking about telling your own story and you know that it's [00:12:30] coming from these difficult experiences You have to do that interrogation and that due diligence for yourself.

[00:12:35] Simon Bucknall: Yes. Yes And so it's very interesting this because many people Assume that, uh, that authenticity flows from, uh, if you like being either spontaneous through the avoidance of technique, authenticity is somehow can only be raw in the moment. Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. In the [00:13:00] moment. And of course, of course it absolutely can be, but it.

[00:13:03] Simon Bucknall: It doesn't have to be that and it's very, it's very striking to me there that the amount of work that clearly went in, um, for, for her to fully internalize, uh, not the experience itself, but the way in which she needed to communicate that experience in a way that would be meaningful and empowering for the.

[00:13:24] Simon Bucknall: Audience. 

[00:13:24] Maryam Pasha: Exactly. And, and, you know, this is a very unique situation, right? Doing a TEDx talk [00:13:30] is artificial in some ways, but if we think about it, you know, it was about saying, if you do a really good job here, if you're able to tell a story that you feel. Does you and your family justice, then you may have to not tell the story a hundred times because you can just send the video.

[00:13:51] Maryam Pasha: So there was this motivation also that can we prevent future harm of you having to tell and retell this story by [00:14:00] creating something that you feel so. that is so accurate and that you're so, um, happy is not the right word, but you feel confident is a true representation of what you need to say that you can send that instead.

[00:14:14] Maryam Pasha: And so that was also a motivation of like saying, if we get this right, this is a real tool. And that's what I mean about how are you going to use this? Where does your story go? If it's just going out into the ether and then that's it. You know, you, I think you have to really ask yourself, [00:14:30] um, is it worth telling this in terms of, am I safe enough to tell this?

[00:14:36] Maryam Pasha: Am I in the right place? I think part of, um, the other thing around the authenticity and spontaneity is that if you're telling a story about these moments in your life that are so difficult, there's real emotion in there. And I think it's really important to feel like you control the [00:15:00] emotion, not the other way around.

[00:15:02] Maryam Pasha: And the only way to do that is to be deliberate. Um, I remember when we were working with Paisley, you know, there were these one or two moments in her talk that were always the hardest for her to get through. Not because she couldn't remember it or anything like that, but because it was the most emotional.

[00:15:21] Maryam Pasha: It was the most emotional, the parts of her talk that I think were still the most difficult for her. And very understandably. [00:15:30] Um, and so we also then knew, you know, because she was being deliberate, because she was really going through this. It wasn't going to sneak up on her just by like accident and take her by surprise in front of a thousand people.

[00:15:42] Maryam Pasha: Yes. And that 

[00:15:43] Simon Bucknall: comes from the, from the preparation. 

[00:15:45] Maryam Pasha: Absolutely. I mean, I think that a good rule to think about, I think a good rule when you're thinking about telling a story that might be difficult or emotional or rooted in trauma or, or any of this is to remember that when you speak in front of other [00:16:00] people, the emotion you feel about that.

[00:16:02] Maryam Pasha: That, that story is multiplied, is amplified and reflected back at you. And that is always a thing that takes people by surprise, I think. I don't know if you found that too. 

[00:16:13] Simon Bucknall: Yes, yes, I, yes, know what that feels like. Yeah. I mean, 

[00:16:19] Maryam Pasha: I think, you know, and this is like, again, Payzee's story is specific because she was using it for a campaign, but I know Simon, like, In your own work in the public, you know, in the, the world championship work you've done.

[00:16:29] Maryam Pasha: [00:16:30] You also told a story that was very close to your heart. That was very difficult. You know, can you just talk me through that process? Like, did you do any of the similar things we did with Paisley? What was different? How did that, how did that work for you? 

[00:16:42] Simon Bucknall: Yes. So, so the, the answer is that I, that I did.

[00:16:46] Simon Bucknall: And, and, um, Most of all in 2006, which was the year I first entered the competition, and uh, the, the way the com competition is structured is there's six rounds and for the first four rounds you could give [00:17:00] the same speech. So I developed a speech built on a personal story from school days about a bully who became a friend.

[00:17:05] Simon Bucknall: And, and, and that itself was quite an emotive story. And there were certainly some points in there where, in the story where I, I felt real emotion involved. My parents involved. Um, It involved me receiving a letter that told me my parents were separating and I would never see my father again Because I was at a boarding school here in the UK so Uh, and the person that stepped in for me when I got this letter assuming it was true was was The boy at school that I [00:17:30] hated the bully whom I'd punched in the face a few weeks before and so uh and The point being that, that he stepped in for me, um, because, possibly because I'd won some of his respect from punching him in the face, but, uh, but because his parents had separated.

[00:17:48] Simon Bucknall: And so he understood. And, and for me, when, when, when telling this story, and of course, as it turns out, the letter said it was a poison pen letter, it was made up. And it's absolutely true. I mean, people sometimes say, you know, how did you, where did you get that story? Well, it's real. [00:18:00] It happened, you know. Um, but the.

[00:18:02] Simon Bucknall: The. But the, so, so, it was, it was, it was a made up letter, but because I was at boarding school, and this is in the mid 80s, mid late 80s, you know, it was several, it was a good week or so before I discovered that it was actually not true. My parents are horrified when they, when they found out what it was, what had been written.

[00:18:17] Simon Bucknall: Anyway, the point being that in, for me in that, telling that story, um, the, I re, always, always, always really feel the emotion most of all, uh, not, not so much actually reading out one or two aspects of the [00:18:30] letter, but it's, It's his reaction, it's him, it's the empathy from him, it's, it's the disclosure to the audience that, that this is a nine year old boy whose own parents had separated and so who understood and even I feel even now and, and, and I also knew that, uh, that This, this, this, this speech, this story in it was a lot more successful in the competition than I expected and I put it into my club contest at round one thinking I would be, you know, [00:19:00] I've already a mental supportive of this.

[00:19:02] Simon Bucknall: It's, it seems to really be inspiring for people. It changes the way people think about relationships and empathy and friendships and so on because I'm getting feedback from audiences before the contest and I gave it in my club. Anyway, it won at club level and it won round two and round three and it took me to Mullingar in Ireland into the UK and it was then and, uh, to which my parents who still lived overseas at the time were going to come and it was the first time they were going to hear the speech and I knew that, uh, therefore I was going to [00:19:30] be delivering the speech with this story for the first time with my parents in the room.

[00:19:33] Maryam Pasha: That's a whole other level 

[00:19:34] Simon Bucknall: of pressure. Yeah, so that, so that was, and what I remember most of all, and I think this links back to the. The point you're making about the work that you did with Paisley with her experience was I, I met with my parents before that big event, that big UK and Ireland final to, to actually work through and deliver the speech to them in person because until that point they'd not heard it, they hadn't heard it at all.

[00:19:59] Simon Bucknall: [00:20:00] And, and I absolutely. Cracked multiple times and telling it was very down. I thought maybe I'm not going to be able to do this Um, and so over the next couple of days with them I kept working it through in my own mind and did but the the process of talking it through with them in advance Was what made the difference because on the day boy, I felt the emotion but with them in the audience in that uk and island final um I, uh, with a story about a Catholic boarding school and they're in, in, in Mullingar in Ireland, I mean, the reaction from the audience, uh, [00:20:30] and with all that's, that's, uh, you know, with all, with the, with the history and the culture of, of, of Ireland and so on, um, and, and uh, Religion and so on it was it was it was at least for me certainly felt very very emotionally intense It was a quite different experience with the audience there that it had been good to live in the speech in london But that working that through in advance with my parents was key because if they'd been if it had been the first time I'd deliver the speech with them in the room I don't think i'd have been able to get through it without cracking and as it was I felt [00:21:00] the emotion But absolutely stayed on the right side of the 

[00:21:01] Maryam Pasha: line, right?

[00:21:02] Maryam Pasha: I think understanding yourself It's so important in these situations when you decide to tell these kinds of stories. I think you have to give yourself a break, basically. You cannot throw yourself in the, in, you're already throwing yourself in the deep end by telling these kinds of, you know, moments in your life with these kinds of stories.

[00:21:20] Maryam Pasha: I think you have to be kind to yourself and, and you may as well set yourself up for success and say, okay, well, let me be, let me make sure I've spoken this out loud. Let me make sure I've talked to other people. Let me [00:21:30] make sure I've understood what that. Amplification effect is from the audience, you know, it really does surprise people surprises me You know, I I've been doing this now for so many years and I remember at the end of TEDx London last year.

[00:21:47] Maryam Pasha: I decided to do something I hadn't done in 10 years, which is kind of make a comment at the end of the day, you know, it felt like a very, it had been a very emotional year, a lot had happened in the world, there was a lot happening, you know, in where my [00:22:00] family's from in Iran, especially with women. And I, I felt this huge pressure that I had put on myself, obligation and responsibility to say something.

[00:22:13] Maryam Pasha: Um, and I remember, Because it had been very spontaneous. So this is like the other side of it. I hadn't had time to practice it. I hadn't had time to, to really, you know, read it to more than like two people. I certainly had not had time to like rehearse it on stage in front of a thousand in any, [00:22:30] in any way, shape or form.

[00:22:31] Maryam Pasha: And I remember standing there and my cohost was like. Asked me, do you want me to leave when you do this bit? And I was like, no. You're staying right where you are, just in case. And I remember what really struck It's good to have a plan B, right? Oh yeah, absolutely. What struck me was, and this is kind of why I don't ever recommend anyone else doing this in this way, is The emotion hit me at a time when I didn't [00:23:00] expect it in the three minutes that I was speaking.

[00:23:02] Maryam Pasha: It just hit me at a part of the, I wouldn't even call it a speech, a part of the remarks where I thought I would be fine. And I remember being like, like, just, yes, yes, like getting this caught in my throat and thinking I have got to keep going. And I think that is just what I mean is if you don't do that practice.

[00:23:24] Maryam Pasha: You cannot predict when it's going to hit you, you know, and you really, and you can't [00:23:30] stop it hitting you, you can't stop that emotion feeling overwhelming, you can be prepared for it, and I was not prepared for it, you know, and I had to like collect myself quite quickly and keep going. And now that's not to say that.

[00:23:44] Maryam Pasha: I didn't have like an unbelievable response from people. Like people were amazingly supportive, but I know now that like, if I was giving that advice to myself, I didn't feel particularly happy about it. You know what I [00:24:00] mean? I didn't feel like I, I felt great about having this moment where I. It's a sheer panic in front of, you know, a thousand people.

[00:24:07] Maryam Pasha: So, I do think being aware of it, if you've made that decision, being aware of when the emotion's gonna hit you, when the most difficult parts are coming up for you, you could only do that through practice. I also think, like, this, what you did with the World Championships and this story is also really important is, You know, when you are telling personal stories and they are going to go out in the world Being [00:24:30] really aware that like people are gonna listen and see this.

[00:24:33] Maryam Pasha: Yes, and yeah, you know You couldn't have hid that story from your parents. You couldn't have done all of that and then be like, oh, yeah, don't watch this thing And so, you know I remember working with some speakers years ago where they were saying some pretty difficult stuff about their family and Their family was gonna be in the room and I was like you need to you need to have that conversation with They should not hear this first time on stage, yes, it's not a 

[00:24:59] Simon Bucknall: case if you never [00:25:00] know who may be watching it You do know who's watching This is very true and of course that can be that there can be that there can be dragons there There can also be sometimes some surprising positive outtakes two weeks after The speech went up on YouTube, on the Toastmasters World Championship public speaking website, um, uh, YouTube channel, I should say.

[00:25:21] Simon Bucknall: I got a message on Facebook from the boy. Oh, wow. Yeah. Whose name I had changed in the speech. Precisely. Knowing that, you know, [00:25:30] and I got a message simply saying, am I James Bullock? So James Bullock is the, is the fictional name that I've given him? Yeah. For the, for the, for the, uh, for the, for the real, the actual boy.

[00:25:41] Simon Bucknall: That's all it said. It's the first contact I'd had with him in. 30 years. Wow. 30 years. Out of nowhere. He'd seen it through some of the spread going around on Facebook, I think it was. And I dropped a note back to him saying, on Facebook saying, wow, extraordinary to hear from you. Uh, I, I think you know the answer to that question.

[00:25:59] Simon Bucknall: I do wonder what you [00:26:00] make of the speech. And I got this lovely note back, uh, saying, I said, I tried to forget what a dick I was at school, but he said, I remember that letter you got like it was yesterday. I caught it. My wife interrupted me when I was partway through watching. I said, no, wait, wait, I've got to finish watching this.

[00:26:16] Simon Bucknall: Hang on. Hang on. He said, Oh, it took me back. We then spoke on the phone. We had a big, big catch up and you know, he's now Uh, yeah, married, two daughters, lives, uh, in, um, in the Midlands, and yeah, and, and, and so we, we [00:26:30] actually had proper meaningful contact for the first time in 30 years because he saw the speech, but I can't begin to imagine what it must have been like for him to watch it.

[00:26:37] Simon Bucknall: He must recognize, he recognized my name and thought, Oh, that's, that looked like a high profile speech. And then. I could imagine about a minute or two in he just started to think, hang on a minute, this is, I'm in this, I'm in this, yeah, yeah, yeah, this 

[00:26:50] Maryam Pasha: looks familiar. But this is, this is the thing about, you know, and this is one of the, you know, we've talked all about why you should be really cautious and deliberate and [00:27:00] planned and safe when deciding to tell these stories.

[00:27:03] Maryam Pasha: The, I think the, the result, the consequence of, of that, you know, um, effort. Is that you can really reach people? Yes, you know, um, whether it's Paisley, whether it's other speakers We've worked with the speeches that they've done are also almost all very deeply personal as well Have had huge reach and been transformative for them other speakers as well, you know Who who have come in and brought?

[00:27:29] Maryam Pasha: And if [00:27:30] not fully themselves, but an aspect of their own experience into this and the learning that they've gone through have always come back and said, I just get so many messages from people. I know Paisley does particularly, you know, from, from girls all around the world who, where her story resonates with them and where she, you know, has allowed sometimes girls to start the conversation about their own future with their own families, you know?

[00:27:57] Maryam Pasha: So I think. That's the, [00:28:00] that's the payoff if you do this right, you know, and this, you know, this podcast is all about stories that can change the world, you know, so I think that a lot of you listening will be thinking about. The things you care about and often the things we care about, the things we're trying to change in the world are deeply rooted in our own experiences.

[00:28:16] Maryam Pasha: And, and so it is by default, this idea that you will bring yourself into it. And I think that's, that's a real overall, a real positive. You just want to make sure he doesn't feel like you've exploited yourself because that does [00:28:30] never leads to a good outcome. But if you feel like you've, you've done yourself a service.

[00:28:34] Maryam Pasha: And you've really set yourself up for success, then that the payoff, the kind of impact is, is 

[00:28:39] Simon Bucknall: incredible. And for those girls that saw Paisley's speech, all of the work she'd have done in the background, the work with you, the work with the people within the NGO and so on, and the work that she did in figuring out exactly what it was that she was going to cover and the constant working, reworking, figuring out how best to actually get that talk across.

[00:28:56] Simon Bucknall: All of that prep would have been invisible. Absolutely. Right. [00:29:00] Because what they see, if you like, is the finished product. And so And so I think it's so important to dispel this myth that somehow if one's going to be authentic, one has to chuck all technique and purpose and preparation out the window. No, no, no.

[00:29:13] Simon Bucknall: This is about being intentional so that the audience really gets what's meaningful, what's important. And the best thing, I mean, the obvious parallel to this is with great actresses and actors. If you've got a bad actor, it looks like he's acting. [00:29:30] Yeah, same true with a bad actress if you've got a really great actor or actress It doesn't feel like you are immersed in it.

[00:29:36] Simon Bucknall: And yet it's all highly intentional. Yeah, but internalized in a way that is real They are able to actually embrace the emotions of the character. And I think there's some truth that the same is true with With really effective, emotive storytelling that is delving into some very vulnerable places. I 

[00:29:53] Maryam Pasha: also like to think about it as writing.

[00:29:55] Maryam Pasha: So like, you know, really powerful writing. You know, writing that moves [00:30:00] you, whether that be fiction or non fiction. That is not the first draft you're reading in the New York Times. Someone didn't just like type it up and pop it together, publish it online. You know, that's not, that's not what you're getting.

[00:30:13] Maryam Pasha: It is you, for some reason, when it comes to writing, it's accepted that you have your, you go through drafts, you have an editor, you do, you know, but we just don't do that with speaking. And I think you just cannot do that if you're going to bring your own personal stories into it. I think the other thing is here [00:30:30] to, I think there's just, there's this other layer of this actually that I kind of think is really important to think about when it comes to making a decision about how much of yourself to bring into something, which is that not everyone starts from the same place in terms of like safety and being listened to.

[00:30:47] Maryam Pasha: And I think one of the things that I. I think it's really important is that when you come from a marginalized community in some way that you don't Feel like the only way that someone is going to listen to you is because you [00:31:00] have a sad story to tell And so I think it's also really important that we don't reinforce those kinds of stereotypes, right?

[00:31:07] Maryam Pasha: There's, it's different if you choose to tell that story. Payzee is from a marginalized community. So am I. We choose to tell our stories. That's great. We are being deliberate about it. But again, it just, it just comes to this idea of like, we need to, we need to get away from the idea that social change only comes.

[00:31:24] Maryam Pasha: If someone kind of exploits themselves, it's just because it's in a way I feel [00:31:30] like it's like, you know, the thing that caused the problem isn't going to solve the problem and I feel like exploitation is such a big part of many of the roots of the problems that speakers I work with are trying to fix that exploitation cannot be part of the solution, even if it's above yourself.

[00:31:43] Maryam Pasha: So I think we could go on forever, but I think We might leave it here, um, and I would highly recommend people listening to both check out Simon's World Championship of the Speaking, where can they find it? It's on YouTube. Just, 

[00:31:56] Simon Bucknall: just Google Simon. The version from 2017 

[00:31:57] Maryam Pasha: is on YouTube. And I highly also recommend [00:32:00] checking out Payzee Mahmod's TEDxLondon Women Talk from 2019 as well.

[00:32:03] Maryam Pasha: I just think it's two great examples that we've been talking about and that I encourage all of you to go listen to.

[00:32:13] Simon Bucknall: You've been listening to Speechless, the podcast from storytelling experts Maryam Pasha and Simon Bucknall. Hit follow now to keep learning how to tell stories that change the world. And if you enjoyed it, please leave us a rating and review. Until next time, speak less, say more.[00:32:30]