AB Thinks  →  7th February 2020

When storytelling goes wrong

Have you ever told a story that didn’t quite hit the mark? Lost your train of thought halfway through, or watched your listeners’ eyes glaze over before you’ve even got to the good bit?

It’s happened to me more than I’d like to admit. Probably too many times to remember. Sometimes I’ve misjudged the occasion, sometimes the audience. Sometimes there’s alcohol involved. Sometimes I’m just a little tired.

I like to think this is a shared experience – one of those awkwardly human things we all encounter. And after a few hours (read: days) of beating myself up over it, I try my best to learn from my failures.

These moments help us understand each other better. They teach us about our friends, loved ones and co-workers. They show us what people like, what they’re interested in, how they want to connect with us.

The same learning applies to workplace communications. In this day and age, there’s no such thing as a captive audience anywhere – especially at work. If our friends and loved-ones can turn a deaf ear to stories of how we met our partners, or about that time in 1993 when we found a four-leafed clover, then there’s no doubt we are just as capable of boring our colleagues. And it’s almost certain blanket messages, such as all-staff emails, greatly increase that likelihood.

However painful the feedback, it’s always useful to step back and take an honest look at how much our listeners are enjoying the story. Continuing to blindly broadcast to colleagues is the equivalent of being ‘that guy’ at the pub who doesn’t know when to call it a day.

Measurement can be humbling, and feedback is often hard to hear. But our stories will be all the better for it.

Read Katie’s tips on how to tell a better IC story

Check out five tips for communicating from writing pro Henry Normal