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Let Me Tell You A Story


Everybody loves a story.  If you want to get someone’s attention, all you have to say is, “Let me tell you a story.”  Once you say that, all eyes will be on you.  Everyone is looking for a juicy story.  They want to hear the drama in what you are saying.  They are excited about how it starts and how it ends.  There is just something about a story that grabs our attention.

The Bed Time Story

I wonder if people love a story because their mom or dad use to read them stories before bed.  We use to read to our kids before bed each night and they really looked forward to it.  I don’t really remember having a story read to me as a kid, but I am sure I would have liked that.  Maybe I was read regular bed time stories, but don’t remember.  Who knows.  In any event, the bed time story is a winner with everyone.

Even if you were not read a bed time story, I am sure you saw other kids on TV, in movies or shows, who were read bed time stories.  You probably thought how lucky they are and wished you had a bed time story each night.  That bed time story looked comforting and gave the impression of a solid family life, and we all wanted that.

I believe “Let me tell you a story” is effective because of these bed time stories we had or wished we had as kids.  

Stories As Lessons

Stories can be used to teach people a lesson.  Parents can use them with kids, or you can use them with friends.  A story can teach a lesson without ever coming out and saying exactly what the lesson is.  The story will do that for you.

When you were a kid and would wander away from your parents when out and about, your parents most likely yelled at you to stay close and pay attention, or you were going to be in trouble.  They told you this because they were scared what would happen if they lost you.  Instead of saying it a nice way, the majority of parents would typically yell at you to stay close , instilling some fear in you.  What would happen, if instead of yelling and instilling the fear of being lost, the parent read a story where a young child was at the mall with her parents and became lost.  The story tells how the little girl felt.  How scared she was.  How one minute felt like an eternity.  I suspect a story like this would teach a valuable lesson and be much more impactful than a scolding for wandering off.

You could also share a story with a friend who you want to help see some flaws in their ways.  If you see a friend on a bad path, you can tell them it is bad and they need to change.  That may work, but I believe a good story would work better.  Instead of telling them to not do the bad thing, perhaps share a story with them of someone who did what they did and it did not end well.  Let them see it for themselves.

Stories At Parties – The Juicy Story

Everyone loves to gather around someone telling a juicy story at a party.  It could be a story about a fight, a love affair, or an embarrassing moment.  It doesn’t matter, it will draw a crowd.  People love to hear the drama.  They love to imagine themselves in the same scenario and think about how they would respond.  They also love the gossip.  This is the easiest type of story to tell.

The purpose of these stories is simply to entertain and be the center of attention.  If you are the kind of person who is shy at parties and don’t really know how to mingle, you can find a way to work a story in there.  When you tell a story, you are more engaged and people will come to you.  Just make it interesting.  Have a few stories in mind before the party that you can tell.  Know how to tell them to draw people in.  It will be like catnip to a cat.

One thing to note is, don’t lie.  Don’t just make up a story, unless you’re telling a joke.  If the story is not true, tell the person you were joking or teasing.  But be careful, if you tell too many stories like this, you will lose your crowd and people won’t want to hear any of your stories.

Stories At Work

“Good stories always beat good spreadsheets.”  I can’t remember exactly where I heard this.  I am not sure if it was in a biography of Steve Jobs or in a YouTube video about giving good presentations.  The point here is that you can go into a meeting and try to get your point across with a good spreadsheet, but a story will always be more impactful.  Don’t get me wrong.  Spreadsheets can be great, but if you don’t have a good story to accompany it, I am afraid it will be tough to win over your audience.

Powerpoint presentations are great too.  These are known for their eye candy.  You can really jazz up anything you are presenting.  But you still need a great story.  People don’t want to see spreadsheets with tons of statistics in them that they don’t understand.  They won’t remember all the stats.  You want them to remember the key points.  

Steve Jobs was amazing at telling stories during his presentations.  For example, he could have listed a ton of tech specs when he presented the iPod.  He could have really highlighted it’s  5GB hard drive, firewire connectivity, and its synchronization capability to iTunes.  He could have made that the focal part of the story, but that story can easily be forgotten, and he knew it.  So he told a different story.  He said it is a “1,000 songs in your pocket.”  No one forgot that.  He told a more powerful, memorable story in those few words than an entire Powerpoint Presentation of stats and tech specs could have ever told.

Final Thoughts

“Let me tell you a story” is the best way to begin a speech or conversation and really grab your audience’s attention.  Your audience could be your kid or friend, people at a party, or coworkers and bosses.  You need to know your audience and cater what you are saying to them.  Don’t bore them with things they won’t remember.  Wow them with memorable bits of information that they can never forget.  Win them over with a great story.  Be prepared and practice your stories.  Make them honest, fun, and memorable.  This is one of the best ways to really make an impact when having conversations.  Good luck!!!

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