I learned about storytelling at a very young age. Or rather, I learned that I was a BAD storyteller at a very young age.
My sister and I were total goofballs and ornery AF. We were always involved in some sort of shenanigan. We would trick my other sisters into doing something hilariously embarrassing and then tell the story. We knew our stories were hilarious… we just didn’t exactly deliver them that way.
Growing up, one of my most prominent memories from our family gatherings includes this level of storytelling. My sister and I would run up to one of our uncles, snickering about our latest prank. We laughed through every word. Then, something strange would happen. My uncle would just turn and walk away. Mid. Sentence. Dawn and I would look at each other for a second, baffled. Then we’d continue telling the story until one or both of us realized how silly we looked, telling each other a story about an event that included the both of us.
We were insulted. We were confused. We just laughed it off.
Thinking back about this phenomenon, I realize that it probably wasn’t that our uncles were rude or didn’t want to hear our story. It’s like when you’re about to hit your punchline and someone asks you to pass the ketchup. But it was probably because we did such a poor job with delivery.
Kids aren’t really known to be great at telling stories. We drone on and on and on, with no real point. Most times I’m stuck in a conversation with a 13 year old, all I want to do is be OUT of that conversation. I get it.
Unlike most kids, I internatlized this inaudible feedback. Why would they walk away? They don’t like me? No. That’s not it. This story is annoying? No, this story is the bomb. Did I take to long to get to the punchline? Bingo! They never even got to hear the punchline.
I started focusing on getting the story out faster, to beat them to the walk away. Talking really fast didn’t work, because then no one really understood me. So, I started using way less words to get to the point. I’d like to think this practice helped me become a better writer and speaker. Instead of giving the entire meadow report, I list off the most important, most interesting events. I got better and better at it. And, suffered through way fewer walk-aways.
Today, when I was “listening” to a 13 year old telling me about the trick shots he posts on Instagram: speed, length, distance, frequency, I walked away. As I left him staring at me in total confusion, I’d like to think that one day he’ll be a better writer for it.