yawning_boyHe circles the room in search of his next victim. You try to avoid eye contact, but fail. He approaches and within a few minutes, it’s like you’ve been transported into a conversation with Michelle from the movie American Pie.

“This one time, at band camp…”

It doesn’t matter how nice he is or how much you respect him, you still find yourself praying for an excuse to leave: a fire alarm, a medical emergency, a telemarketing call…anything to get away.

Sound familiar?

But what if you looked at the situation differently? Instead of planning to fake a grand mal seizure, what if you actually listened to the bad story critically? Take it apart. Consider how you might tell it differently.

I’ve kept a list of my own observations:

  • The story had no point.
  • The story had a point, but it took way too long to get to it.
  • The opening didn’t  grab my attention.
  • The opening did grab my attention, but it was so fantastic that the rest of the story couldn’t measure up to it.
  • My attention wandered in search of relevance. “Why is he telling me this story?”
  • The narrative ended abruptly, leaving an unsatisfying end to the story. (The Michele from American Pie syndrome)
  • The only thing memorable about the story was its poor delivery.
  • The storyteller blew the punchline–either by forgetting a crucial detail or by overplaying it.
  • Halfway into the story, the storyteller said, “Wait, I need to start over.”

The next time you find yourself trapped in the throes of a bad story, don’t count the hours until it ends. Use it to become a better storyteller. Because when it comes to learning, there’s nothing better than a bad example.


Photo Credit: Library of Congress