Story Abuse

We have known for quite some time that a good way to grab the attention of your audience is to tell a story. Stories can bring clarity to the point you are trying to make. Stories can help the listener remember the key idea you are sharing. After all, you have wasted a great deal of time if your audience walks away from your speech or meeting and cannot recall the key points of your message.

The problem is not that we don’t get the value of storytelling. The problem is when we abuse the use of story. Story abuse rears its ugly head in a number of ways:

• As a Trojan Horse for building and stroking the ego of the storyteller
• With too many details and detours which cause the listener to become bored and lose interest
• By not connecting with the main point

“Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.”
-Hannah Arendt

I once was a member of a church where most every story the pastor told related a key point but when his story involved himself, he always emerged as the winner or the hero. His stories appeared self-serving. When a story is told to draw attention to the storyteller, it becomes self-serving—even if it makes a point.

How often have you been at the mercy of a storyteller who just goes on and on? It can be excruciating. The audience starts to wonder “where is this story going?” This storyteller enjoys his own story so much that he does not consider the needs of the listener. This individual enjoys granular, detailed information and he assumes others do too. With most human beings demonstrating the attention span of a gnat, you can bet that the listener has checked out and is not following the storyteller.

Finally, if the storyteller has to explain how his story connects to his main point, the audience begins to doubt his or her credibility. A well-crafted story makes a clear connection to the point being made. That is why storytelling is not an easy task. A good story is one in which the listener has an “aha” moment or a startling discovery. If this happens, your point will be remembered for years to come because of the brilliant connection the story made to it.