Everyone Needs To Tell Their Story and To Be Heard


Several years ago for Valentine’s Day, my husband Steve gifted us with the mugs you see pictured. Before I could become insulted, he explained that I was “weirdo” and he was “weirdest”. When we first met, we bonded over the fact that neither of us belonged. In fact, when a mutual friend introduced us, she told me, “You will really like this guy. He is weird, but really cool.”

My entire life I found myself in the interesting position of having friends from all different groups while not belonging to any of them fully. In high school, it played out with the stereotypes: brains, jocks, pot heads, theatre groupies, and the popular kids. I also had friends in a religious retreat group for the Catholic Archdiocese. I ran that group for two years, but I never felt like I belonged.

My husband has his own story, but by the time we met each other, we had both concluded we were weird. I worked in corporate America and found success, so my husband deemed me a little less weird than him.

While coaching individuals several years ago, I learned the concept of being in the wrong room. Sometimes the goals and aspirations of an individual do not match those imposed on them by their job or an organization they joined. When agreeing to serve on a board, I would advise my clients to make sure their values and mission align with those of the organization.

“Maybe I am just in the wrong room. That is why I don’t fit in here,” some of my clients remarked. Some of them even suggested that I myself was in the wrong room. They saw the efforts I made to create change, and the frustration in my reaction when I was unsuccessful.

The idea impacted me, and I shifted my thought process to look for the right room. I believe in equality for each person to live and grow freely to reach their potential. My quest for the right room included a deep immersion into learning about our country’s true history of slavery, colonialism, white supremacist structures, racial equity, gender equity, the treatment of indigenous people, and a better understanding of the inequities affecting the LGBTQ+ community. The more I met people who were focused on equality and justice, the more comfortable I became with myself.

I am in the right room now. I discovered that I am not weird. I am me. Steve has discovered the same. He is not weirdest. He is Steve.

The more I listened to people during 2021, whether we were talking about social justice or leadership or business, the more I discovered the great need of each person to tell their story. As a coach, I was prepared to ask questions and wait for a response. Sometimes the magic happens in those moments of silence during which individuals are connecting their past to their present.

How can each of us take this lesson from 2021 – each person needs to tell their story and to be heard – and turn it into action? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Before making a conclusion about someone’s comments or behavior, take a moment to be curious. Ask them, “I am curious, what is going on with you?”
  2. Spend time each week thinking about your own life. What were you taught as a child? How does your childhood impact your view of life, leadership, and business?
  3. Sit down with a friend or colleague and ask them to tell you their story using the same questions listed in action 2 above. Then listen.


Published by Mary Balistreri

Mary Balistreri offers a variety of coaching and professional development services to individuals and organizations focused on harnessing strengths to develop more business. Mary’s approach is goal driven, focusing on measurable results and developing actionable plans to move past obstacles that hold individuals, teams, and organizations back from executing on the plan. Mary offers expertise in business development, team building, and leadership development coupled with strategies to improve conversational and emotional intelligence to support clients moving toward their goals and aspirations.

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