Why Do You Suck At Telling Stories?

At one time in the world’s history story telling was integral to the survival of our earliest records.  Before the proliferation of the written word, great story tellers and bards were responsible for documenting history with all its great accomplishments and stunning defeats.  The times, they are a-changing.

Any major event these days is usually caught on film.  The average person can afford to document their family history with inexpensive equipment.  Online blogs have become the premiere story telling vehicles.  Facebook and twitter statuses, now document everything from the completely inane, to major political events.  In all of this “new” media, have people begun to lose their knack for story telling?

There are few things worse than being stuck listening to a story from someone who can’t tell it.  It is an exercise in complete frustration. People need to get better!  Avoiding a couple of common story telling mistakes can change you from a complete bore, into the life of the party.

To me, the three story telling sins are as follows:

1. Telling them too slowly:
This is horrible. The worst part is once you are invested in listening to these people you know it is going to be a long story because they are telling it so slowly.  Their voice is monotone and they drag out each thought until you are ready to choke them. If you are telling a story – get to the point as quickly as possible while retaining all pertinent info.  At least pretend like your story is important and animate your speech a bit.  A little enthusiasm won’t kill you.

2. Tangents:
This is the worst.  This will kill a story with a quickness.  If you are telling a story about some intense showdown you had with a mugger…stick to that.  A tangent about how you went out for ice cream, and they totally don’t have that one ice cream you love, which is weird because it is like ALWAYS there! Did I mention the cashier looked just like Webster?  It was uncanny, I was totally waiting for Mr. Kostoplous…Oh my god! What’s his name again?  What?  Yeah that’s it!  OMG I can’t believe I forgot that…OK where was I? At this point I don’t know anymore and I certainly don’t care.  I am silently praying to all that is holy, you forget yourself and this farce comes to an end now. I might even jump in with my own Webster story because the thought of hearing your inane babble any longer makes me sick to my stomach.  In conclusion…tangents are bad!

3. The Bad Story Warning:
If anyone ever starts their story out with these words: “OK I suck at telling stories…” then RUN.  The fact is, if someone is saying that it is because their stories are bad.  People have let them know by either telling them or walking out of a room.  At one time in my life, I genuinely thought that I would punch someone square in the nose as soon as they said that.  I think any legal ramifications I incurred would have been off set by the time saved not listening to them prattle on.  I never acted on it but I thought about it.  Don’t set your self up for failure.  Be confident!

I am not claiming to be a great story teller.  I am not claiming that at all.   I am however, a fan of a great story.  I can say with 100% confidence that no story I have ever heard that was told too slowly, went off in tangents or was prefaced ay a bad story warning has been great.  They haven’t even been good.  In fact any story that matches all three of those criteria have been some of the worst moments in my history of social interaction.  If you suck at telling stories, and if you do you know it, your first step should be to eliminate the above “sins”.  Try it for your next story and let me know how it works out for you.  Just get to the point when you do!

  • Oh man you nailed 3 huge points here. Nothing is worse than a story that drags on. GET TO THE POINT!!! Great reminder for me as a presenter to keep my stories short and to the point. Leaving a few details out might actually make the story more intriguing and leave more to the imagination!

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