Written By: Sandy Bjorgen, IMPROV-able Results ~
Your list of “Story Starters” can include others’ stories as well as your own. As long as they have emotional impact on you and could move an audience. As long as you protect identities when necessary.
Let’s try the 3-part process on someone else’s story:
- Ask yourself: “What happened? Summarize the event.” I heard, second-hand, this story told by a local 80-year-old barber (“Joe”). He had once received freely-given on-the-job training from two other barbers. He was very grateful for their willingness to share their knowledge and experience. Years later, when asked by another barber for input, his advice was always promptly dismissed. At the end of this story, Joe said, “It’s about learning, not ego. I would not have received my Best Barber of the Year award had I decided I had nothing more to learn from others.”
- Ask yourself: “How did it affect me (or the main character)? What did I feel, think, learn?” I found this story to be very moving and widely applicable. We all have more to learn from others. Someone is always better. It serves us all to be able to ask for and appreciate the gift of feedback.
- Ask yourself: “Who might benefit from hearing about this?” Anyone. Particularly people who really need or want feedback but are afraid to ask. Maybe they fear they’ll appear weak or stupid or be indebted to someone. So, in what circumstances might I use this story to make a relevant point? Certainly any training session geared toward developing skills in networking, sales, collaboration, emotional intelligence, conflict management. The purpose would be to encourage others to be curious and ask questions, rather than assuming they already know it all. To remain alert and open to unexpected opportunities for growth.
I now have enough notes to jog my memory when looking back over my list in search of a story to match a point. I can use it as a base, expand upon it, and dramatize it in a mini speech leading up to the point. For instance:
As Joe, my 80-year-old barber, is trimming my hair, he tells me of a time in the early days when two guys rented chairs in his shop. He saw them producing better work than his and asked for advice. They willingly showed him how to improve his performance. Eventually they left and some of their clients even decided to stay on with Joe. One year, he received the Best Barber of the Year award from the city. Some years later, another barber rented a chair and asked how to “undo” a mistake, but his advice was promptly dismissed. And that continued to be the case. Joe shakes his head and says, “I would never have received my award if I hadn’t been willing to ask for and receive help. This is about learning, not ego.”
This is a story told in less than a minute. It can start off a discussion on the value of seeking guidance and new information and adapting to the changes involved.