I’ll bet you have a good story—probably a few. But a good story has a very important element, one that I had completely disregarded until recently. Here are a couple of examples.
A friend of mine, Todd, worked for a summer scouting fires for the Forest Service. It was a beautiful day. Workers were repairing the floor of the lookout tower, so he was on top of the roof, looking out at the miles around him, a good 60 feet above the rocky crag where the tower stood. But the beauty of the day was so overwhelming, the view so spectacular that Todd, in exuberance of God’s creation, stepped off the roof!
Falling to certain death or dismemberment, he instinctively reacted by flinging out his arm, and his elbow hooked on a heavy storm shutter propped open. The shutter swung closed and Todd swept into the room like a high velocity Fred Astaire making a grand entrance. The astounded work crew looked on. Todd was completely unharmed, surprised and relieved to be alive.
I burst out enthusiastically, “That’s a great story!” His family was there too, but they were not impressed. His son said, “Yeah, yeah.” The rest looked bored.
I looked at them and repeated, “But that’s a great story!”
His wife explained, “Yeah, but we’ve heard it before.”
His daughter chipped in, “Yeah, like a thousand times!”
Another friend, Jim, has retired to Arizona. He offered to help a neighbor refinish a deck and the neighbor said, “Do you mind if tell you a story or two?” This guy turned out to be a county sheriff from Southern California, who proceeded to tell yarn after yarn about run-ins with Hollywood celebrities over the years. He spoke softly and kept looking over his shoulder to make sure his wife was out of earshot. She was tired of hearing them and he didn’t want to get in trouble.
Does this sound familiar? Have you found yourself rushing a friend or family member along, yeah-yeah-yeah, while they talk about witnessing an armed robbery or meeting Elvis at a gas station? Maybe interrupting, maybe helping the guests out. “Oh, they don’t want to hear that.” All because you have become a bad audience.
I am guilty of it, too. My wife and family have plenty of good stories I have heard before, and sometimes I fight the urge to cut my finger across my throat and shout, “Heard it before!”
How sad! These excellent stories sit unopened in front of company, who would enjoy them, because of a couple of bad audience members.
Here’s a thought that helped me when Libby began telling a favorite story. I cut in with, “This is a great story!” (It was.) Then I asked, “Have you heard it before?” They hadn’t. Then I said, “Well I have, so while she tells it, let me get you all some snacks from the kitchen!”
This allowed her a great audience, validation and promise of snacks—a great combination!
I’m sure you have a great story- probably 10! Catch me sometime and tell me one! Like my website says, ILIKETHATSTORY!