Everyone loves a good story, and people remember a good story. Or rather, they remember a story that impacts them. Someone can tell a great story, or tell a so-so story really well, but unless is draws them in and connects with them, a story told greatly has much less impact than an average story told poorly but that connects with the individual.
The rule is to make the listener care. The listener will ask, consciously or not, “Why do I care?” The storyteller needs to do the job of answering the question. It can be as simple an answer as, “This is a normal human problem.” Or it can be a particular point to a particular group. Talking about educational principles to a group of scientists might not get the same reaction as the same talk to a group of professors.
As we tell stories – at home, at work, with friends – we need to be aware of the audience. Some people are natural storytellers, insofar as they know instinctively how much detail to tell, in the proper order and at the right time. There are others who have no clue what to say, how to say it and when. But we can all benefit from learning more about storytelling.
As parents, it’s important to be able to connect with our children. In marriage, it’s important to connect with our spouse. In reality we all tell stories all the time. We need to focus on how well we do it.
If you were listening to you, would you want to continue to listen to you? How often do you gripe or talk behind someone’s back? Are you tired all the time just to make people sense that you’re a fatigued hero? All of these are signs that you’re telling badly.
People love to hear someone who has a range of emotions. Fatigue is a normal part of life, but so are energy and joy and happiness. Our families like to hear how we are. If we’re frequently speaking as if we’re exhausted, would you like to live around someone like that? But aren’t you also elated at times? Intrigued? Confounded? Interested? People like to know that you’ve done something heroic, but they also like to hear that you’re normal – you got injured, you failed, you slept in, you lost money, etc.
People connect with people. They don’t connect with humans who are the best or the worst. Someone who’s “the best” is arrogant. Someone who’s “the worst” is a psychopath. I know that’s not true, but we feel it. We have to be careful of the image we convey. We may know that we have a range of emotions, but our families typically see us at the end of the day when we’re tired. And our coworkers see us at our best during the day while we’re fully engaged in work.
People out working are busy mentally and physically taking care of, at minimum, keeping their jobs. Those at home with children are busy taking care of business their – training, cleaning, changing diapers. And we’re geared and trained toward liveliness from about 6-6 each day. Then after that we’re drained.
When do we get home? About 6 PM. Then we have dinner. Then it’s time to relax. So we’re all tired and drained. And that’s exactly when we start to tell stories to those about whom we care the most. Sure, we tell some during dinner, but it’s mostly factoids and tidbits.
Sure, there are different stories with different groups. I tell stories to my coworkers differently than I tell stories to my family or friends at church or extended family. There are stories for all kinds of occasions, and not all are appropriate at all times.
But remember that whenever, wherever and to whomever you tell a story, you have the responsibility to make sure that your audience cares. At that point of caring, you’ll connect. And at the point of connection, you’ve developed your relationship. And at that point, they’ll want to listen to you again.