Do I Have To Make Everything Into A Story?
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
Dear Someone Else’s Dad,
Our leadership team just took a seminar on storytelling in business, and my manager totally bought into everything he learned. Now he can’t ask me a simple question without telling me to put my answer in the form of a story. HIM: “What happened on your call this morning with Client Z?” ME: “We’re all on target with our plans this month. We’ll touch base next month.” HIM: “Can you give that answer again in a story format?” What, like, “Once upon a time I had a weekly call with Client Z, and started by saying, ‘Good morning….’”? I’m surprised he hasn’t told me to tell him a story of when I went to the bathroom! Am I missing something?
Once Upon A Time in Hell
Grateful for the imagery of a potential bathroom story! There’s one I don’t want to hear, thank you.
I actually have spent many years training leaders to tell stories as a way to help them relate to audiences. Relaying well-crafted stories can help leaders motivate others by demonstrating how they or other people faced and overcame obstacles, which led to a clearer view on how they see the world or make important decisions. Audiences’ attention level increases notably when speakers tell human stories during business presentations. A typical basic story includes:
A protagonist who is living in a status quo
An inciting event that changes the status quo
A struggle to reach a new status quo
A lesson the protagonist learned along the way.
I’m glad your manager is motivated to tell and listen to stories but I think he’s taking it too far. If I’m tossing the remains of my lunch in a trash bin, I would bore people to death if I told everyone how I carefully removed the eggshells from my three hard-boiled eggs and placed them on the top of the plastic container so that I could eventually just toss the shells in the organics bin and with one swift additional motion place the plastic in the recyclable bin. I could go on because I haven’t mentioned with the used salt packets and napkins. Still awake?
If he asks you a question next time you can ask: “Do you want the short version, which by the way is, ‘It cost $12.99, and included a side salad,’ or the long version, which will start with the clock striking 12:30 and how I felt about it?” If he chooses the long one, make it excruciatingly detailed (see eggshell story above). I guarantee he’ll choose the short one every time, or never ask you these types of questions again.