The Power of Storytelling with Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua is a Storytelling Business Coach who helps organizations to create authentic and effective company culture. Her core values are listening, storytelling, and diversity. She was once a silent, undiscovered leader who found her way through storytelling. Her work is about helping Black and Brown leaders, foundations, and purpose-driven organizations to communicate more effectively. Beatrice shares her passion for storytelling and demonstrates its impact for leaders.

Here are a few of the topics we’ll discuss on this episode of Long Story Short:

  • The power of listening to understand and not just to plan a response
  • Being intentionally visible in the way you want to be seen
  • Why sharing your story is an act of kindness and not only for extroverts
  • Identifying the nuances of communication that go far beyond what was said
  • The importance of sharing all stories to be representative of the world we live in
  • Why being authentically human does not mean being free of making mistakes
  • The role of sharing your story with employees to foster a positive company culture

Resources:

Connecting with Beatrice Kabutakapua:

Connecting with the hosts:

Jeff Sirkin on LinkedIn

Sophia Gordon on LinkedIn

Jeff Sirkin:
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of Long Story Short, the podcast about storytelling and connection, where we interview marketers and entrepreneurs to hear the stories they tell about their brands. I’m Jeff.

Sophia Gordon:
And I’m Sophia. This is a podcast by humans, for humans who also happen to be marketers. On this week’s show, our guest is Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua.

Jeff Sirkin:
Beatrice is a storytelling business coach and communications consultant. She was once a silent, undiscovered leader who found her way through storytelling. Now her work is about helping Black and brown leaders, foundations, and purpose-driven organizations. Beatrice helps use business storytelling to present in a more engaging way, improve company culture, and clarify the vision of an organization. Prior to starting her own business, she spent over a decade as a journalist. She was the executive producer of a documentary called Invisible Cities, a project that portrays the real life experiences of African diaspora communities all over the world.

Sophia Gordon:
So sit back, relax, and most importantly, listen up as we discuss the power of not only sharing your story, but the value in truly listening to someone else’s, all from a woman who has built her career around mastering just that.

Jeff Sirkin:
This was such a powerful discussion with Beatrice. Her story is so fascinating and she is such an inspiration for how she’s been able to help so many people through her work. So without further ado, please enjoy our conversation with Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua.

Jeff Sirkin:
Hi, Beatrice. Welcome to the show.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Hi, Jeff. Hi, Sophia. It’s very nice to be here.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. We’re happy to have you. And I want to get right into it. Can you tell us what a storytelling coach is, from your perspective?

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Well, I can tell you what I do, because I’m not sure what other storytelling coaches are doing, but from my side, I do mainly two things. So from one side, I work with individuals, especially with women of color entrepreneurs, and what I do is really basically I help them incorporate their own stories into their businesses. And I do that for several different reasons. One of the reason is definitely visibility, so making sure that those stories are heard much more than they are now. The second reason is for them, obviously. So for their confidence, for their own journey in a way. And then obviously there is marketing and communication, and talking about your business without just saying, “I sell pens,” but with saying, explaining why you actually do what you do.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
And then from the other side, I work within organizations, and most of the time they are either nonprofits or foundations. So the philanthropic industry, and I like to think that I take them through a similar journey, so that of understanding what their story is, then embedding it in what they do, and then eventually communicating it to the external world. So yeah, that’s what I do.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s really powerful. Thank you for sharing.

Sophia Gordon:
And we know you haven’t always been a storytelling coach, but from what we do know, you’ve always been interested in the idea of sharing stories, no matter where that falls. So could you tell us a little bit more about your own story and your journey that led you to where you are currently?

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Yeah. And I want to highlight that I was always very passionate about sharing stories as long as they weren’t mine.

Sophia Gordon:
Yup.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
So I used to work as a journalist, and that’s how I think I, especially early on, when I was very young, and I was going to go to the university, I was like, “Oh, I want to be a foreign correspondent, and I want to report on other people’s stories, and I want to travel all over the world.” And I was very happy and confident about sharing other people’s stories, because I always felt that they had so much to share, and, “I will just go there and ask the questions, and they will just answer.”

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
But then when I started doing that, it worked fine, and then I felt that I knew needed to do something more purposeful with my skills, and that’s how I decided that I wanted to work on a documentary on African migrants in several different cities in the world. Because my background is African. My parents are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and I was born in Italy, so I always had this idea of changing the narrative on migration. And I thought, when I started the documentary, I thought, “Okay, I’m just going to go there and ask the questions, and they’re just going to share their stories with me very easily.” And that didn’t really happen right away.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
The first approach that I had was very traditional journalist, in a traditional journalistic way. So asking the questions, and expecting the answer. And then I realized that that didn’t really … I wasn’t really having the kind of documentary that I really wanted. I wanted the conversations. I wanted something that was really spontaneous, or spontaneous as much as possible. And then when the camera went off, we actually started having very small chats about our stories, and I shared a little bit of my story, and other people were sharing their stories, and I was like, “Oh, this is what I actually wanted to capture in the documentary.”

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
And the more I reflected on it, and the more I did it, because we traveled for a couple of years, so the more I did that, the more I realized that the actual secret ingredient was my own story. And not because my story was so important, or teary, or particularly shocking, but just because I was telling them, “Okay, I’m open to share my story. Would you give me yours?” And that’s really when I thought, “Okay, so this is process that you actually have to go through when you want to share a story, or when you want people to share their stories.”

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
And the more I reflected on that, I did workshops and trainings on storytelling, communication, migration. And in the end, I really thought, “Well, my passions are business, storytelling, and people and their stories, and connecting them as well.” So eventually I’ll arrive to storytelling coach.

Sophia Gordon:
That’s great. And also I think it’s really important what you highlight in that storytelling and communication in general is definitely a two-way street. And so if you’re going to ask someone to do one thing, being able to show them, “Hey, I’m able to do it too,” is really, really important.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Yeah. Yeah. Because it’s always a connection. In a way, if you seem … I think that the thing is that if you see people as something from which you have to take something else, then you don’t feel the urge of giving something as well. But because we are connecting as humans, which is something that it’s basic, obviously, but we sometimes forget about that, we think about what we want to get from something, and we don’t think about the human behind that something. So I think that if we put the human element back, it becomes much more easier.

Jeff Sirkin:
I think that’s such an important reminder for all of us, frankly, that in any relationships, just to be more focused around, what can you give? As opposed to always be thinking about, what can you get?

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I think it’s that, but also about thinking about the common grounds, and thinking about … When I was studying journalism, one journalist that really in a way was always … His thought was always there with me, whatever I was doing, and he was a Polish journalist. His name was Ryszard Kapuscinski. And one thing that he said was that each of us inhabitants of the world are others for someone else. But even with that, we have the same fears. We have the same worries. We have the same dreams, even if we live in completely different situation, worlds, and cultures. So it’s not just about, “Okay, I can give you something,” or how I can help you, but it’s also about where we can meet. Is there enough way where we can actually meet and connect? And how I can share with you a story that will help you understand, “Okay, this is where we connect.”

Sophia Gordon:
Yup. And you know, something Jeff and I always say, and people who have listened to more than one of our podcasts have probably heard us say, is that before anything else, we’re humans, right? And so just keeping that in mind, in any sense of the word, any interactions that we’re doing, that should be at the forefront. So with that in mind, speaking of different things that are important to you, one thing that I really liked is on your website, it says your three specific values are listening, storytelling, and diversity. And I’m really interested in hearing why those three specifically are so integral to you and your work.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Well, listening, it’s definitely something that we don’t do enough, and we are all guilty of that. We can do that with our families, with our customers, with anyone, and that’s because we also have things to say. So we listen, we hear the other person, but to answer something. We don’t listen to actually understand exactly where they’re coming from or what they’re saying something, or to gather more information and see whether we can actually give some help, or whether we just have to listen, because that’s also the case sometimes. And especially in the work that I do, listening is fundamental, because it’s not just about what people actually say. It’s also about how they say it, when they say it, what they remember, why they have some … Sometimes we have some memories that keep coming back, so trying to listen to the clues in a way.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
And then storytelling, obviously it’s my obsession, and what I’m passionate about, and what I love. And also something that does what I really wanted to do since I was a little girl, which was connecting to people. Wherever I am, whatever I do, I want to connect to people. And I know that stories can do that, and they can do that even if you’re not a storyteller. Lots of people, lots of times people think, “Oh, I cannot tell a story,” either because, “My story is not interesting,” or, “I’m not a storyteller.” But you don’t actually have to be a storyteller to tell a story. I mean, obviously there are some ways of doing it. There are some trainings that you can do, but every single person can tell a story.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
And then diversity, it’s fundamental for me because … And obviously in a way, it comes back to my own background. But for me, being able to listen, to hear, and to share all the different stories, it’s very important, because we need to create … And I don’t want to exaggerate with that, but we really need to create a world that is representative of the actual world, so the conversations that we have, the stories that we share, the pages, the images, everything should speak to what the world actually is without excluding people.

Sophia Gordon:
I don’t think there’s a way to exaggerate on that point. That is so important.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. And I think one thing that came up when we were talking before is the way you sort of described your childhood and upbringing in Italy, is that at the time, you were sort of in the opposite, of you wanted to be invisible, right? You didn’t want to be as visible as you were. And I think it’s really, to me, the thing that I took away from that so powerfully is really that, sort of where you’ve kind of realized sort of the power in that, right? And I think it sounds like you’ve kind of come a whole long way since not wanting to be so visible.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Yeah. I think in a way, I still have that feeling lots of the time, but the reasons are different. I think that the most important lessons I’ve learned is about the why behind whatever you do. Because when I was little, I didn’t want to be visible, because people will always see me all the time. Because I grew up in a small town close to Rome, where my family was, I’m pretty sure we were the only Black family in the town. So it either was our hair, me and my sister’s hair, or maybe it was because we were really tall for our age, or for any number of reasons, we were always seen. And I didn’t like, and I realized that later on, what I didn’t like, it wasn’t much being seen, but being seen without choosing how to be seen. So it’s more about being seen on your own terms than being visible at all.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
So there were two elements in particular. The first one was the fact that I’ve always been quite an introvert. So this constant attention from group of people was really draining for me. And the second thing is that I was quite passive. I wasn’t being visible in a way that I wanted to be visible, so I wasn’t choosing anything. While now, I’m still like, yeah, visible, but not too much. But whenever I decide that I want to be that. If I want to speak, if I want to talk. I know that people a lot of time when they see me speaking or when I do presentation or workshops and stuff like that, they don’t realize I’m an introvert, or they don’t realize that I don’t want to do that all the time. But I think it’s really a matter of choosing, being the power of making that choice, “I want to be visible, but in this way.”

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
And this is what I am also work on with my entrepreneurs. It’s not just your story because you have to explain why you open your business. It’s also because you have to understand what you like, what you don’t like, how you want to be seen, whether you want to be seen, and how you want to be visible in the world.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s amazing. And can you talk about … So specifically, you mentioned working with the entrepreneurs. Can you talk about sort of like … And you mentioned, again, starting with the why, obviously, but can you talk a little bit about in terms of the process that you use with your clients?

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Yeah. The very first step with my clients is always understanding the objectives. So why do they want to include their storytelling, their stories into their businesses? Why did they think that it was very important? So it’s really about why they want to do it, and what they want to achieve by doing that. Because if you don’t have a strong motivation, then it’s really easy to give up and say, “No, it’s not important. It’s not relevant.” And you don’t put the work in it. But the reflection on your objective is the first step.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
The second step, it’s definitely knowing your story, which sounds weird, because we should know our stories, but there are so many things we forget, we don’t want to remember, we don’t want to bring up, we are afraid of sharing, we are used to talk about as if it wasn’t a big thing. So the second step, it’s knowing your story, and then owning your story as well, because we also need to be empowered by our stories. No matter if they’re positive, negatives, or in between, we should say, “Okay, this is my story. It’s okay. It’s fine. And these are the results that came from that story.” And the way you do that is by focusing on the results. Not on what happened in itself, but what you have learned, how you have shaped your character, or your choices, and everything else.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
And then the last step is sharing your story. So when you share your story, you are really saying, “Okay, this is what I’ve reflected on, and this is what I want to actually share with the entire world.” Because when you go through this whole process, there are things that you don’t want to share with everyone, because that’s fine. There are stories and things that you simply don’t want to share with everyone. So in the share your story step, you really focus on thinking, “Okay, what is the platform that I want to use? Who are the people that I want to share with this with? And how do I want to see that?” So coming back to what I was saying before, it’s about making your own choice, being empowered into choosing how, and where, and for whom.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. I love that you say that you start with their objectives, and that’s something we talk about a lot internally, and we say all the time, it’s, “Begin with the end in mind.” And in our case, the way that we help our clients to tell those stories is much the same way as, think about, again, and sort of put yourself in the shoes of the audience, right? What matters to them? What is it they need to hear? And especially from a marketing perspective, I think oftentimes, and this is really where we try to help our clients, is that’s what gets lost. Is they say internally, “Here’s what we want to say,” and it’s frankly more relevant if you do the opposite. It’s like, “What does your audience actually want to and need to hear to help them understand?” You may have the right product for them. You might have the right service for them, but right now you’re disconnected, right? And so you need to kind of meet them where they are, as opposed to just sort of screaming as loud as you can what you do and hope that somebody’s going to get it.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Yeah. And I think it’s a very good and interesting test to do with clients as well, right? They will oftentimes say, “Oh, we want to do these on our website.” Or, “We want to talk about our product in this way.” And then you ask a very simple question, “Why?” And they’re just like, “Not sure. Don’t know.” And that’s when you know that you really, that as you said, you’re missing something that is a point of … This in a way comes back to listening, right? You want to actually listen to talk, and not listening to actually understanding what’s needed and how you can meet halfway, in a way.

Sophia Gordon:
And I think with listening, it goes to listening to your audience, too. And so, okay, you can develop your story. By no means does your entire story have to shift because, “Oh, my audience.” Likely they want to hear it, it’s just, how can we tell it in a way that they’re actually going to hear it too, and really take it in, in the message that we’re trying to actually convey?

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. Because the thing about storytelling, I remember when some years ago, the idea of being authentic came out, and people were sharing whatever on their social media posts, and they were just using the word. But the thing about being authentic with your story is not just about, “Okay, now I’m just going to share everything about my product, business, and story, and background so that other people can know who I am and what I do.” It’s about sharing something that you know it’s going to resonate with your audience. In a way it’s selective storytelling. You know all your stories, but you have to know which stories are going to be important for other people.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
I always say that storytelling is an act of kindness, and that’s because you don’t share your story for yourself. You share the story because you have reflected on it, and now you have a lesson and something that you can give to other people. And it’s the same with your audience. If you have a product, a business, if you have an NGO as well, you have to think about what you can give by sharing your story. And in order to do that, you actually have to have a conversation with your audience. You have to connect with them, and talk to them, and understand where they’re coming from.

Sophia Gordon:
And so within that, we have our broader audience of people who are maybe consuming the products we’re putting out, or buying into whatever initiative we’re trying to advocate for, but then we also have an internal audience of the people that are actually really working for and partnering with us. And so I would love to hear a little bit more from your perspective about why it’s so important for employers to tell their stories to their employees, just as much as it is for their external audiences.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Yeah. And this is something that it’s so overlooked, so much and so often, and I can tell you about the client that I worked with last year. They thought they needed someone to help them with their copies, and then when we actually did a session together with the entire team, what was happening was that everyone was really self-aware of sharing their knowledge, or their writing, or anything with the rest of the team, because they were afraid of being judged, or of not seeming smart enough. Or anyway, they were just self-aware of their team members, which is very interesting, because those are the people that you spend a lot of time with, and those are the people you’re supposed to reach objectives with, and those are the people that are supposed to inspire you as well.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
So when it comes to using storytelling internally, it can be done in several different ways, but the aim is always to make sure that you inspire people, you engage them, you tell them you are doing something for a reason, and this is the reason, but it’s also about getting to know the different people who are part of an organizations, and kind of let it go, letting go of that fear of being judged or of being … Yeah. All that fear linked to sharing something.

Sophia Gordon:
And I think something else that’s really important that you brought up is when you’re sharing a story, a lot of times there are these … You know, you were saying authenticity, and there’s these buzzwords that get people going. And then it sends a domino effect to almost where those words that were originally super meaningful and gain traction then lose their meaning, because they become so popularized. And so something that’s super important to me is when we’re telling our stories and trying to inspire, is the actual words that we’re using, and that goes internal and externally. It’s like, do our words actually have substance behind them, and are they actually inspiring? Or are we just saying, “Oh, I’m inspirational, because I’m using the trendy word right now, that is to, quote, ‘inspire.'” You know?

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Yeah. Yeah. It should really be common sense, but words actually have a meaning, and the problem is sometimes maybe for laziness, maybe because we are afraid of digging a little bit deeper, but sometimes we use the buzzword, and we don’t actually break it down. So when I say I’m inspirational, what do I mean? Do I mean that I actually set an example for my team? And how do I set that example? Really trying to understand the actual actions behind the words, and also trying to understand how the words affect other people as well.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
So obviously in diverse teams, you have to be very aware of how you are communicating, how you’re talking, how you’re speaking, at the words that you use, whether they can resonate with someone, whether they can offend someone else. And these are all things that you know only if you know your team, so if you spend that quality time to really have the conversation with your team, even in a kind of vulnerable way.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. And I think you’re spot on in the fact, and Sophia brought up, in terms of, it’s funny, a word like “authenticity” is so nuanced, because what happens is so many people want to be authentic that then they’ve created unintentionally sort of an inauthentic version of that. They’re trying to be authentic, right? It’s not something you can really try to be. But I love really where you’re coming from, which is, and something I think is so fascinating, is that whatever language you speak, you need to speak human first, right? And we’re really big on that is, try as hard as possible. I’ve heard the term is the curse of knowledge, that if you speak sort of too high brow about a concept, that people won’t be able to understand it. Talk like a human being, right? And this applies to marketing. This applies in just about any relationship, is that the big words and things like that, it’s just to make yourself try to sound smart. It actually kind of does the opposite in some cases, where it doesn’t allow for that real human connection.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Yeah. Exactly. Because we do communicate for creating that conversation, right? But if you are speaking on different levels, and I cannot understand you, what’s the point? And also it’s really important to be practical with your communication in a way, so what do you actually mean? And also being authentic and trying to be humans, which is interesting. Trying to be more human doesn’t mean that you never get it wrong, right? So you can be spontaneous and authentic, and you can be yourself, and then you speak, you say something that offends someone else, that someone else doesn’t find as funny as you do. But then the continuing to be human is in the fact that you recognize that you have offended someone, you accept it, and you’re just like, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize that was offensive for you.” And that’s it. It doesn’t have to become … And this is both internally and with the outside audience. If you make a mistake, you own it, you recognize it, “We’ll do better,” and then actually do better.

Sophia Gordon:
Yeah. I think something Jeff and I say a lot is, “Fail fast.” It doesn’t matter. Don’t be afraid to make the mistakes. It’s what you do when you’re responding to that mistake, that that’s going to be what characterizes the event more than the quote-unquote “mistake” or whatever.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I mean, we have to make mistakes. We make mistakes. The important thing is to recognize them, apologize, and then move on and do better. We are supposed to be learning from them.

Sophia Gordon:
So shifting gears a little bit, we know you’re currently working in England, and your documentary and the interviews you did for that were in Africa, but something that’s super cool and really fascinates me about storytelling is the universal component that it has, and that stories are told all around the world. But something that really interests is the intricacies, depending on the channel and audience that you’re telling the story, even the country and culture, the language, you know? There’s so many different facets that make up a story. And so I’d be really interested to hear you and your thoughts on the differences, based on the different work that you’ve done and what you’ve seen.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Well, from the documentary, I’ve worked on the documentary some years ago, but one thing that I realized is that because you speak to different people, and each person or each group of people has its own, in a way its own bias, or its own understanding of a topic. So whenever we will say “migration,” if we were speaking with some international migration-related organizations, they will tell us something like, “Oh, you didn’t talk about remittances.” And we’re like, “No, we were never going to talk about that. It wasn’t the point of the documentary.” Or some other people, like I remember some university professor saying, “Oh, you didn’t speak about asylum seekers.” No, we weren’t really focusing on that, because everyone has its own framework in a way, right?

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
So what we really needed to understand was whether it was relevant for us to actually speak to the audience who was telling us, “You should have added this and that, and this and that and that,” or we should have just focused on the people that we actually wanted to have on the documentary, which is in the end, what we did.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
And the second thing was really trying to find the voice of the documentary itself. So trying to understand how we wanted to talk about the documentary, but it was a very interesting lesson, because the documentary was shot in the UK, in Turkey, and in the US, so it was interesting to see how easy or how more difficult it was to move around and talk about it. And I think that one of the most interesting things was when people were actually questioning me about the documentary. So, “What are you looking for? What’s the story that you want to share?” And then I had to find the effective way to communicate with different people, and within different languages as well.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
But I think that this happens as well a lot with businesses, they have to understand how to talk with different people. And it doesn’t just happen when they have an external audience. Even internally, there are some organizations right now that are doing, for instance, things like TED Talk style events within the organization, which is fine. I mean, it can be a challenging and very interesting experience, but then I also think about people who are not naturally speakers for the public. What do you do for them? And again, you have to know your audience to know how to communicate with them, so you have to know that within your organizations, there are people who write, or people who prefer to blog, or to make videos, or to speak. So you have to know all these differences between your team members, and then you have to find the right ways to make sure that you speak to all of them.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. And I think again, what you keep coming back to, which I really love sort of the message behind is to understand everybody for being an individual, right? And to not … There’s no such thing as a one size fits all answer, frankly, in business or in communication especially.

Jeff Sirkin:
I want to come back to something you said earlier, because it struck me for a lot of different reasons. But I think in my mind, I’ve always thought of sort of storytelling as more almost selfish, because it’s sort of, “I want the spotlight on me.” But the way you say it is that really storytelling is an act of kindness. And so I wonder if you can just expand on that a little bit, because I think that’s such a sort of a different mindset than I’ve always sort of approached it from.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
I think that this definitely comes from the reflection on my own journey within storytelling, but also from other two thoughts. The first one is that what isn’t shared doesn’t exist. So I can have the most beautiful product, or I can be able to help people in a very extraordinary way, but if I don’t share that, it’s like I don’t do that. And this is also true for stories for people who are usually unheard. If you don’t share your story, if you’re not in some way visible, then your story doesn’t exist. And I don’t mean to be harsh with that. It’s really like that. I share this thing on my website. If you’re not taking the pen, if you’re not stepping on the stage, and if you’re not taking a little bit of courage to share a story, then you don’t exist. Because unfortunately, that’s how it works. And when you don’t exist, then the story is being told by regular other people, by the usual people, and that’s not okay.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
And then the other thought is also the lesson that we share through storytelling. So I don’t share something just because I want to be visible. I share something because then the reactions that I see is, “Oh, I really needed to hear that.” Or, “This is something that really helps me.” Or, “This is exactly what I was reflecting on, and then you gave me the tools.” I share because one of the fundamental pillars of whatever I do, and whatever I will do in the future, it’s purpose. So we are supposed to be doing stuff for a reason, and if we don’t have that, then honestly, what’s the point? And in all honesty, if we think about it in a different way, it becomes much easier.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
So when we say, “Okay, I want to share. I’m afraid of sharing my story, because they’re going to judge me, and I’m going to be too visible, and I have to step on the stage and I have to speak,” and, “I, I, I,” all the focus, it’s on us, which makes it very scary, but also a little bit selfish. But if we say it in a different way and think like, “Oh, I step on the stage, and I’m going to help 300 people. I’m going to share this story and I’m going to help one person. I’m going to share this other story, and 10 people will feel better about themselves and they know they’re not alone,” then it’s totally different, because you see the impact of what you do rather than your fear. I think in a way, it’s much more selfish not to share your story than actually sharing it.

Sophia Gordon:
Yeah. And I think too, with that, the people who are moved by your story, they’re going to remember that. They’re not going to remember the things that you were so scared and nervous about to begin with, either. They’re going to remember what your story gave them just as much as that should be what you’re focusing on as well.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Yeah. Exactly. They’re going to remember what they got from the story, right? Because everyone obviously sees something else in the story, and they’re going to remember that feeling or that thought or how they felt about it. It’s not whether you mumbled on the stage or whether you were scared, because they’re not going to see that. This story bypass all of that.

Sophia Gordon:
So something we really like to ask, because it’s so different for every guest’s personal and professional story, is what success means to you.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Success for me, it’s on different levels. So there is the personal level, there is the professional level, and then there is the daily successes. So on a daily life, for me, success, it’s really accomplishing one task that I set myself. And then if I’ve done that, that’s fine. It’s okay. Professionally, for me, success really means keep doing what I’m doing, but reaching more people as well. So right now, for instance, I’m working on my book, and my first book, it’s obviously about storytelling, as you can guess, but I think that the birth of the book as being longer than I expected, just because as anyone else, I’m also scared of sharing stories. So I’m always like, “No, I have to tweak this part,” or, “I have to edit this other part.” And then I had this conversation with my best friend, and she was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. Edit as much as you want, but if you don’t give me the book to read by the end of the month, you’re going to have issues.”

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
And this is true also, because then I have conversations, I always try to have as many conversation as possible with different people during the week. And I have conversations with people, women, women with a migratory background, women or people with a marginalized background, and I always find myself repeating pretty much the same things, or hearing also, listening the same fear or worries, or similar experiences. And then I think to myself, “Oh gosh, if I could have one way of just broadcasting the message to as many people as possible, then I will be happy.” You know? So yeah, I think that professionally, success will be first of all, finishing the book, publishing it, and making sure that as many people as possible read it. And then obviously there are other things linked to creating my own business, and having a team, and then growing the business and stuff like that. But one step at a time.

Jeff Sirkin:
Absolutely. And again, I think it sounds like you have a pretty good framework for it, but if you make the book, your one thing that you need to accomplish every day, then it sounds like hopefully it’ll get there. The other thing we always like to ask is, what resources do you have, it could be books, blogs, podcasts, anything that you’d want to share with our audience. And again, obviously we would love to add your book to that specifically once it’s out. But in addition to that, what other resources would you want to share with the audience?

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Well, from my side, I have a monthly blog that I publish, and my newsletter as well. And in the blog, I’ve found that people found lots of value in it, because there are, yeah, all these references of being afraid, but actually managing to share your story. One of the very popular, of the most popular blog posts is how to master the art of listening, so there are different resources on my website and on my newsletter.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
But in general, I think that it’s very important to focus on … I think that if we could all start by reading or consuming something that it’s very different from us, that would be very important. One book really changed … Two books, actually, that really changed my framework for approaching other people are, the first one is The Other, by Ryszard Kapuscinski, and the other one is Quiet, by Susan Cain. And The Other is about how we connect as human beings, and what things to consider. Especially one of the biggest thing, it’s empathy. And then Susan Cain book is all about introverts, and why society actually done a lighter spot on introverts, and how as an introvert, you can move into the world. So those are two books that really shaped me.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. And as always, we will link to those in the show notes. Before we let you go, where can people find you on social media?

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Well, on social media, they can find me on Instagram at @bea_storytellingcoach. On LinkedIn, as Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua. I’m pretty sure, though, that if they write like, “Beatrice storytelling coach,” I will be the only one to come up. And then on Twitter, where they can find me at @Kabutakapua.

Jeff Sirkin:
Well, Beatrice, this was really amazing. Thank you. More than anything else, thank you so much for coming on the show, and thank you for your story with us.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua:
Thanks to you both.

Jeff Sirkin:
Thanks, Beatrice. Well, that was a great conversation with Beatrice, and a vital message about storytelling being a kindness, and truly listening to understand. And now it’s time for footnotes with Sophia.

Sophia Gordon:
Footnotes is where we expand on portions of the discussion that we wanted to learn more about and share with you. This week, there was so much that was said that I was actually really overwhelmed thinking through what I wanted to bring up in the footnotes section. I have listened to the episode and gone through my notes countless times, and I ultimately wrote out some points for this week’s footnotes, and then I realized upon further reflection and consideration that the entire time I was going through the episode, I was doing it to think through my footnotes response. So instead, I wanted to use this time to further emphasize Beatrice’s three values: Listening, storytelling, and diversity.

Sophia Gordon:
Specifically, when discussing the importance of listening, she notes that we often listen to answer something, and we don’t actually listen to understand. And as important as it is to listen and then offer a response, sometimes, as Beatrice notes, listening alone is all that’s needed. And after revisiting this part of the episode, it actually made me re-listen to the entire episode and challenge myself to listen for the sake of taking it in, and trying to understand what Beatrice is saying, and not imagine my own additional responses or ideas.

Sophia Gordon:
So often I feel like our tendency is to do something, and we feel that the way to do it is by showcasing or vocalizing our perspectives. And while to Beatrice’s point, sometimes sharing our own story and perspectives is important. It’s not the only or always the right response. And in order to reflect the diverse world we live in, we must be able to listen to the stories of our world and understand the realities around it, not to offer response simply to listen. And that ultimately will shape how we do respond to events in the future.

Jeff Sirkin:
I couldn’t have said it better myself. And frankly, I’m with you as well, is that I really don’t want to add too much on top of what Beatrice said, aside from just highlighting the magic she really gave us. So thank you, Sophia, and as always, all of the research and references can be found in the show notes. If you want to reach out to us directly about this story or inquire about sharing your own story, you can reach us at LSSpodcast@sirkinresearch.com. Thank you for listening, and we hope you’ll join us for a new story next week on Long Story Short.

Jeff Sirkin:
I want to thank Sirkin Research for being the sponsor of our show. Sirkin Research fuels demand for B2B marketers looking to gain a competitive advantage. We leverage original research and data-driven content to supercharge your growth. You can find out more on our website at sirkinresearch.com.

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