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★On being articulate

The Joe Rogan thread made me think about how articulate some people seem to be and thus how intelligent they appear. Comedians often fall into this category.

Obviously most comedians stage acts are rehearsed, but what I found interesting is that whenever I watched an interview with a comedian, they seemed as articulate and witty as they are on stage, even though they seemed to be talking on the fly.

Obviously comedians are witty and clever people anyway and I don’t mean to take away from that, however after seeing or hearing multiple interviews with the same comedians, I realized that they use a little trick to ensure they come across as both witty and intelligent almost every time they open their mouth, irrespective of the topic at hand.

The trick is that they sway the conversation, usually using the loosest of connections, to allow themselves to use the same stories over and over again.

A seemingly impromptu interview soon turns into a few ‘off the cuff’ remarks amongst a load of prepared, pre-tested and well refined stories. This got me thinking, where else had I seen this behavior?

We’ve probably all had this experience, you’re out in a pub or club and everyone is gathering around a single person, he’s the center of attention for large blocks of time because he’s telling interesting story after interesting story. Not only are these stories interesting but their skillfully told, he’s reading his audience well, keeping them in suspense, making them laugh and react emotionally when he wants them to.

Intrigued by the way people interact you listen intently, although you’re thinking more about the delivery than the actual content. Later on in the evening you introduce yourself and start chatting, he’s still an interesting person but that spark that was so evident earlier in the evening seems to have wained a little.

You swap phone numbers and hang out a few more times and before long you notice something interesting; this person is always telling the same stories! Each time they meet someone new they realize they have a new audience and another opportunity to practice their story and impress someone else at the same time.

I used to dislike this trait in people but I’ve come to really admire it. I used to think that beyond these stories there wasn’t much else to these people and whilst this has been true in some cases, the majority of the time these people are at least as centered, motivated, intelligent and interesting as everyone else, if not more so. The temptation to think otherwise is caused by an unrealistic expectation brought about by the initial impression they created followed by the lack of ‘spark’ later on.

So… I’m going to try and spend some time working on my storytelling. I’ll pick a few different types of stories with different topics and morals and I’ll tell them as often as I can.

The intention is not to get my fifteen minutes of fame so to speak, instead it’s to entertain and amuse people, to learn something about social interactions and be comfortable enough telling these stories that I can more easily get across my real personality when I first meet someone or when I’m in new or unfamiliar environments (Or, more likely, when I’m having an introverted day and would rather be alone in the forest than mingling with strangers in the city)

I don’t think I’ll use these stories like they so often seem to be used, as in I wont be the life of the party for the first hour or so until my stories run out. I’ll attempt to get to know someone first and then let them loose, in this way learning more about the story telling process (because you know the person better and thus are better able to judge their reactions) and won’t come across as someone who likes to brag, which is unfortunately how many of these people seem to come across when telling story after story.

I’ll also do my best to make sure that I don’t turn into, or come across as, a ‘one hit wonder’ – one of those people who hide behind their stories because they’re otherwise completely void of substance.

I think the real reason this caught my attention is because I have so many different interests and hobbies and think that I often come across as a jack of all traits. This is far from true, I actually become obsessed with particular topics for months or even years at a time, consuming everything I can about them and practicing hobbies at every opportunity.

The problem is that I get caught up in the details, so instead of focusing on the interesting events or stories at hand I nerd it up by concentrating on the details. I think that focusing on story telling will force me to spend more time in the moment and be more observant when it comes to experiences, will allow me to have more fun, allow others to enjoy my company more and will make me focus less on the nitty gritty details which I so often get caught up on.

The details will come with experience. I think that keeping this in mind will help me in my story telling endeavour.

Ironically this is a post very much focused on detail but I’ll get there. It’s very much the kind of stream of consciousness post that I think this forum will be good for. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

“How easy it is in our life, to miss what’s being offered.” — Paul Haller

Lee,

This week I was at a Beltane party when conversation turned to marriage proposals (as you do on Beltane!). One friend told us he married his flatmate, what a ripper, we all wanted him to spill the beans! He turned out to be an amazing storyteller. I’m sure it wasn’t a “preprepared piece”, otherwise we would already have known about the whole affair.

When it came down to my story (I was married for 6 years) – I felt that my story was complex and slightly bizarre. Because I had to explain things like what “dungeons and dragons” was. I’m a geek, I had to put all the details in! Without all the details, our scripts wouldn’t work would they?! The story was very me.

But yes, I do appreciate a good story told.

Focus

storytelling is definitely an art, i grew up in the country where most older men haverelied on telling stories for fun or to pick up girls, real yarn round the campfire stuff, i guess younger generations like mine have really lost this ability because the story usually revolves around things like the TV

things i’ve picked up when telling a story from listening to the best and recounting my travels from overseas

1. what you think is the most interesting part of the story may not be interesting to other people

2. in this case every time you tell a story you should be judging your audiences reactions, different people will react to different things and this way you can edit the story to appeal to different groups and refine it, this takes away some of the tedium if you are alwyas telling the same stories

3. “never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn” – Chopper Reid, convicted criminal and great story teller. now i’m not saying lie i’m just saying you should embellish things a little for the sake of the story, especially feelings – change “i felt a little embarrassed” to “i thought i was going to die, i didn’t catch the train again for a month!)

4. there is big difference between embellishment for the sake of the story and shamelessly talking yourlself up, no one likes a brag, “broz i got like ten chickz de other night” no matter how subtle it may seem if you are trying to talk yourself up people (especially girls) will notice that you are bragging and people who brag are normally compensating for a lack in some other area. thats why i really try and make fun of myself and get everyone laughing.

5. never be one of those people who say “and then i went to Rome, and then i did Paris, and then i did Barcelona” i’m sure you’ve all heard people tell stories like that? people want to here about little naunces of these cities, strange little experiences in some french back alley at 3am in the morning instead of “and then i did the Eiffel Tower”

6. vary your voice, talk slower at suspenseful parts of the story and quicker when people are laughing to build up excitement, also use your whole body, don’t be afraid of standing and putting on some crazy expressions, here are some examples
- “i went here and it was really cool place, but i got a little scared when i heard footsteps behind me so i turned around and i heard this bang!”
- “i stumbled into this dark abandoned building and thought, where the f*&^ am i and how did i manage to get myself in this situation again? and then my heart started banging (slap yourself in the chest for a bit of visual stimulation to people who are watching) when i heard footsteps behind me so i silently turned reaaaaaallllly sloooooow woonderiing what waas there and then BANG!” for the last bit you want to slow down your rate of speech and punctuate each word and say it softer to make people strain there ears and draw them into the story and then say bang loudly

first time ive tried to explain how to tell a story, there are probably more points that i have forgotten to mention but its good to think of the mechanics of things instead of doing them automatically so i can take my story telling to the next level :)

hope this was of help!

Thanks for the tips se da luz! I think you’re right about us younger generations. SMS speak, instant message conversations (whilst talking to 15 other people at the same time) and too much time in front of the TV playing play station or watching unimaginative, low quality soap operas have all taken their toll.

freygan, having to explain Dungeons and Dragons to people shows how uncultured we are here in Australia :) hehe

When I say details, of course they are necessary, but I think that most stories are better when extra information style details are left out in favor of experiential/sensory details.

A vain example for the sake of simplicity. Instead of going into detail about what you were wearing, mention it briefly to tie the story together but then spend some time talking about how the clothes made you feel and the reactions people had to them.

A better example might be when talking about the decorations in the Sistine Chapel. (I haven’t been btw, I’m just making this up as I go along :) ) Instead of going into excruciating detail about the painting (which, I’d imagine wouldn’t do it any justice, despite how articulate you are) talk about how the light changed because of the windows, how you felt walking into the main room, how it seemed to affect other people, how it smelt and how the acoustics altered the sounds of your voice making everyone appear smaller, or more angelic or whatever.

I don’t know, I’m still pondering over all of this stuff :) It’s good fun thinking about it though, I’ll probably end up grabbing dinner and drinks with a few friends tonight. I’ll try and be conscious of my story telling and do some experimenting.

“How easy it is in our life, to miss what’s being offered.” — Paul Haller

I agree with sa de luz about embellishing your story. I am prone to much exaggeration when telling about anything that has happened to me. It creates laughter at my expense which I don’t mind and everyone knows that I am exaggerating anyway.
I find that stories that get told over and over by different people always end up with the storyteller’s personality in it somewhere, people can’t resist adding their little bit, much like the game Chinese Whispers. But if it does no harm then what the …. it makes it more interesting sometimes. An otherwise boring story becomes more alive depending on who is doing the telling.

Just a quick update, I didn’t get to go out last night, was too busy working on bmindful :) I’ll not get out again until Thursday or Friday, but I’m looking forward to experimenting with this!

goddess, definitely the quality of the story has more to do with the story teller than the story itself!

“How easy it is in our life, to miss what’s being offered.” — Paul Haller

I’ve had a few chances to practice my stories. The one that’s getting the best responses so far is a story about a fall I had whilst climbing last week. The more I tell the story, the better the reception.

No exaggeration, but I’m using more interesting and exciting verbs and I know what words to emphasize. I also know how long to drag it out to get the tension building but know not to leave it too long because people think they know the ending and get bored. Of course it doesn’t end like they think it will, which only adds to the story a little.

It’s surprisingly easy to bring up too, it never seems contrived (to me at least) it just seems to be so relevant for some reason. (Relevant to hobbies, friends, fear, pushing yourself etc etc)

I’ll have to add in a few more stories to my mix though, I’ve got a few more that need some work and I’d hate to end up a one hit wonder :P

“How easy it is in our life, to miss what’s being offered.” — Paul Haller

In response to Lee Nutter’s post:
I like that you say you know what verbs to emphasize. That is an important part of a story.

There is an elderly man who comes into my place of business, and always has a joke. Sometimes he forgets that he tells the same joke. He is so good at story telling, we never mind, and laugh like it’s a brand new joke each time. That’s not to be nice->it always sounds fresh and new, because he is.

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♫Frampton I love enjoying this surrender. It is always beyond my wildest imagination of completion

I can see the benefits of having a few stories up your sleeve, particularly if you feel uncomfortable in new situations or when meeting new people. I love hearing stories too.

I’m naturally shy, but to help get conversations going with new people I often try and probe them to find out more. I might say “tell me a story, how did you two meet”, and then the person will launch into their story and they will feel more at ease too, we like to talk about ourselves & like it if others are interested in us.

“Even if you’re on the right track – you’ll get run over if you just sit there” Will Rogers

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