Saturday, September 24, 2016

                                                QUEL EN EST LE BUT?

     Throughout the years of my teaching career, I started off the first day with the above mantra which translates:

      I would tell my students (in French) that if there was no point to what I was teaching them, that they didn’t have to listen. If a homework assignment didn’t serve a specific purpose, I would not assign any. If my lecture didn’t offer a particular skill or practical purpose, they didn’t have to take notes. Needless to say, this kept me on my toes as well as my students. I had to ask myself while planning lessons “What’s the point?” 

     Now that I have lived many years since retiring, I wish I could pass this message on to many people I meet who love to tell stories. Storytelling has been around since the loin cloth, but no one ever taught man how to deliver a good story. My point is that every story should have one. If not, it risks boring the hell out of the listener. As I always worry about boring people if I talk more than twelve seconds, I don’t tell stories very often. I do listen to stories everywhere I go, and I’m here to tell you, some storytellers are so boring, I want to tear my hair out. The worst storytellers are those who consume alcohol at the same time. It seems that the vodka-laced details become more superfluous and irritating as the story goes on and on and . . . . . 

      So what’s the point? The point is this:  If you’re going to tell a story, consider the purpose before you start. Consider the attention span of the listener. Add some humor. Take a breath. Leave at least ten minutes between each story and most importantly, consider asking a question of the listener in case he might want to relate an incident so that an actual conversation may emerge. If someone is telling a story, don’t highjack it and add boring details that prolong the listener’s agony. If you are telling a story, check the body language and facial expression of your listener. If his eyes are closing, he’s fidgeting in his chair or he’s looking at his watch, get a clue.

     So what’s the point? Stop boring me.

     Au contraire, there are some fabulous storytellers out there, and they are not famous. They may be your neighbors, your kids, your barbers. If you find yourself totally engaged, and better yet, laughing, listen to how they tell their stories. Take mental notes on their techniques, and practice them in your closet. To me, the people who I most enjoy are those who are interesting, interested and who are seeking a connection. 

     Does your storytelling invite a connection? If not, what’s the point of telling it?