The ability to tell a story in conversation is a skill every socially adept person has. When you hear someone tell a story in conversation, it’s captivating. It’s almost they’re able to draw the focus of everyone in the room on them because of what they’re saying and how they’re saying it.
If this is a skill you want to have, or if you’ve attempted to tell a story in conversation before but just can’t seem to magnetize your listeners, then don’t worry. The ability to tell a story in conversation is something anyone can learn with time and practice. A lot of people are can do it naturally, and others will need to hone it. If you’re the latter, read on to know how to tell a story in conversation.
How This Skill Can Benefit You
To really encourage yourself to learn how to tell a story in conversation, keep in mind the benefits that will come once you learn this skill.
It will boost your self-esteem
If you’re able to master the ability to tell a story in conversation, then your self-esteem will skyrocket to the heavens. Telling a story that is as engaging as it can be will draw the attention of multiple people. If you’re socially anxious now, the more you tell stories to others during conversations and the more you draw people to you, the more you’ll get used to it.
When you start getting used to garnering attention in social interactions, if you start getting comfortable with it, your self-esteem will rise at the same time. Having high self-esteem is not only good for your social life but for your overall mental well-being as well.
You will seem more approachable
The people around you will find you more approachable if you’re the type of person who’s able to tell a story in conversation so smoothly. Think about this: Have you ever encountered someone who can tell a story in conversation so well that you just want to go up to them and talk to them as often as you can? You can have that for yourself as well.
Befriending new people will be easier
Since your self-esteem will increase and you will seem more approachable if you master how to tell a story properly during conversations, making new friends will conversely become easier for you.
Talking to new people won’t seem too challenging for you anymore. You will stop feeling anxious and nervous whenever you’re surrounded by strangers or by people you’re not that close with. These improvements will allow you to focus properly on another person to get to know them enough and become friends with them.
You will be more articulate
A person who can articulate his words and thoughts properly is a person worth listening to. Being articulate is to be as clear and understandable as possible whenever speaking and mastering the ability to tell a story in conversation most certainly will help with that.
The better you become at telling stories, the more articulate you will be. The more articulate you are, the easier it will be to tell more stories in the future. This is a symbiotic relationship that you will eventually learn and grow the more you practice and apply your storytelling skills.
It can have positive effects on your personal and professional life
Not only will this skill improve your social life, but it can also bring positive effects on your personal and professional life as well.
It will serve you well personally to have this skill because you will be more confident. You’ll doubt yourself less and less if you truly commit to this skill and believe yourself more and more in the process. Your days and nights won’t be hindered with self-doubts and other similar negative emotions, transforming you into a more positive person.
Professionally, having the ability to tell a story in conversation will improve your public speaking ability. You’ll be more confident to speak your mind and capable of saying them properly.
Take note that these things won’t magically transform you into this person who can suddenly do no wrong in their personal and professional life, but it will drastically improve how you handle a lot of things and react in a lot of scenarios.
How to Tell a Story in Conversation
Now that you understand the proper benefits of learning how to tell a story in conversation, it’s time for you to actually learn how to do so. Depending on your current social abilities, this process can either take a while or just a matter of a few interactions. Whatever the case for you may be, just remember to persist and practice as much as you can. The time will come when you’ll be able to enchant and magnetize others with your stories.
Find stories worth telling
To be able to tell a story properly in conversation, you will need stories that are worth telling. What good is it to know how to do this skill if you have no genuine or interesting stories prepared? With that in mind, look deep in your memories and find stories that are eventful and worth telling.
You can also gather inspiration from others. If you’ve heard a particularly interesting story from someone else in the past, remember what and how that story went and make that story your own. This doesn’t mean you’re making it seem like the story happened to you. You can just mention you heard it from someone else when you’re telling it. The important thing here is that you have a story and you can tell it properly.
Basically, your first step should just be to gather stories that are noteworthy and worth telling. Put a pin on those stories for now until you’re ready to tell them.
Understand the genre of the story
There are different types of stories out there and understanding the whole theme and the emotions they can evoke will absolutely help you tell them better. You can’t act dramatic if the story is funny and you can’t be lighthearted in telling a story if the message is grim.
Understand what the story is about and match the way you tell it with its message. If the story has a punchline that is funny, then be upbeat when telling it. If the story is scary, set the tone and speak in a much clearer and serious voice.
Build-up is important
Never reveal the ending of the story before or as you’re telling it. Build it up. If the story is funny, structure the story accordingly so the punchline hits more. If the story is suspenseful, then build suspense so the ending is more cathartic or surprising.
One of the most important aspects of telling the story is how you get to the ending. Building it up is more important than starting the story. That’s when you’re really able to catch the focus of your listeners. Take note of the following to know how to properly build up a story.
Paint the picture
Describe the scene as vividly as you can. Make sure your listeners are picturing the situation exactly as you intended it. Only say pieces of information that are relevant to the story. You don’t need to say what the people in the story are wearing if it’s not relevant. However, if it’s important to note that it was raining that day, make sure to point it out.
Painting a picture properly will allow the readers to really immerse themselves in your story. It will almost be as if they were actually there. If you’re able to do that, then you painted the scene well enough. If they can picture the scenario properly and fully comprehend your story, getting to the ending will be much more satisfying for them.
Lead up to ending properly
Build the story up by slowly but surely getting to the ending, giving away all information necessary, and even leaving breadcrumbs along the way. Don’t just give out a scenario and tell them the ending immediately.
If the story is about the time you high-fived your boss instead of shaking his or her hand, don’t tell the story by simply saying, “One time, I was talking to my boss, and instead of shaking his hand, I high-fived him instead.”
You should also reveal necessary details like why it led up to that moment. If it was because you were high-fiving a co-worker beforehand, say that. If it was because you lacked sleep that day and were just feeling particularly absent-minded, mention that. Regardless of what it is, the important thing here is that if there’s a key detail that will help make the ending of the story more impactful, don’t forget to mention that detail.
Feel the story you are telling
You need to make your listeners feel the gravity of the story as they’re observing you. To do this, you need to really feel the story you’re feeling. You can do this by utilizing gestures and being fluid with your facial expressions.
Move your arms around or mimic what the person in the story is doing if it’s necessary. This will help the listener picture the story better. They will also be entertained by how personally immersed you are with your story.
Your facial expression will also matter here. If you’re moving around while telling your story but your facial expression is blank, then you’re not invoking the proper emotions.
Just remember, there’s no need to overreact or be manic. Just move and express when necessary and according to the story.
Find a hook
Finding a hook gives you a reason to tell a story in the first place. This will also give you the chance to tell the story naturally instead of forcing a story on others.
A hook is something that will allow you to share a story that’s relevant to the situation or whatever it is that’s being discussed in the conversation. For example, if you’re talking about music and you have a story about a certain artist, or a friend who’s a musician, or if you have an eventful memory in a concert, the music conversation is your hook to tell your story.
Practice telling your stories
Practice makes you better. That is practically a universal truth that applies to everything, including storytelling. Whenever you’re at home, try practicing telling your stories to yourself. See which areas can be improved upon, how you can describe certain parts better, or which areas seem irrelevant enough to be omitted.
The idea may seem absurd to you, but if you really want to master the ability to tell a story in conversation, then practicing is something you must do from time to time. The best way to practice something like this is by doing it alone, at home, preferably in front of a mirror.
Look at everyone whenever you’re telling your story
When you’re telling your story to others, make sure you look them in the eyes to really connect with them. Keep them hooked and engaged with you by making eye contact. If you’re speaking to a group of people, make sure you look at each of them. Jump from one person to another from time to time.
This will be a challenge at first, but this will also actually help you as well. If you maintain eye contact while telling your story, you will also be able to observe just how much they’re actually paying attention to you. This will give you the boost of confidence you need to tell your story properly.
This is a minor tip, but helpful nonetheless. Before you tell a story, especially if the story is relatively lengthy, drink a glass of water first. This will ensure that your mouth isn’t dry and your voice won’t be prone to cracking. It will also help you feel more comfortable when speaking.
This tip is just a healthy one overall, and it’s something you need to always keep in mind before sharing your stories to others.
Make sure you finish telling a story once you begin one
When telling a story, make sure you commit to that to the end. Never frail and cut the story off halfway through, unless, of course, something drastic happens or if it pertains to an emergency.
Otherwise, do not let any form of distraction or hindrance stop you from finishing your story. This is also for your reputation as a storyteller moving forward. If you want to be a good storyteller for the sake of your social life, commit to your stories.
The story doesn’t always have to be about you
The stories you tell don’t always have to be about you. In fact, it’s better to be a diverse storyteller by also telling stories that have really nothing to do with you, but you share them nonetheless simply because they’re interesting stories.
This is when you can bring in stories you’ve heard from others. If you’ve heard a story from someone else that really stuck with you, share them with others. You can make those stories your own not by pretending the story happened to you, but by telling it masterfully the way you do.
If ever you do tell a story about yourself, refrain from telling stories that will make you look and seem “grand” or “heroic.” People will appreciate and welcome you more if they feel you’re someone they can relate to.
Only tell these types of stories if they’re really necessary, relevant, or if you’re asked to tell that story by someone who knows about it.
Know if the story is appropriate to the setting or conversation
One thing that is just as important as knowing how to tell a story in conversation is knowing whether or not it’s appropriate to share those stories in the first place. That said, make sure that, whenever you’re telling your stories, you’re in the appropriate setting and situation.
It’s also important to know whether or not the story you’re going to tell is appropriate for the mood of the room. For example, if the conversation has gotten to more serious grounds, it would then be inappropriate to begin sharing jokes or funny anecdotes.
Watch videos of public speakers and stand-up comedians
It can be really helpful to gather and watch videos of public speakers and stand-up comedians as you’re learning how to properly tell stories in conversations. Observe how they present themselves when they’re telling their stories. Notice how they structure their stories. You can also take note of how they move their bodies as they’re telling their stories.
Another thing you can also do aside from watching public speakers and stand-up comedians is to just watch and listen to people you know who are good at telling stories in conversation.
Practice by telling stories to one person first, then two people, then…
If you feel that, for now, telling stories to a massive group of people is too scary and unbearable for you, then begin by doing so to one person for now. Have someone close to you come over, or invite them out. Let them know what it is you’re trying to do so they can help you out.
If you become comfortable telling a story in conversation with one person, do it with two people. Once you’ve checked that mark, do it with three people. Start by telling stories to your group of friends. Eventually, the number won’t matter anymore and you’ll just be able to tell your stories comfortably, regardless of how many people there are.
Think about the story and not the number of people listening
Another way you can be comfortable telling a story in conversation regardless of how many people are listening to you is to not think about how many people there are in the group. Instead, direct your attention to the story you’re telling. Focus on that and let your “crowd” be the background.
This will also allow you to tell your stories properly. Remember properly the story you’re trying to tell and voice them out loud with proper diction and clarity. Be immersed with your story yourself and your listeners will follow. Do this and you shouldn’t be bothered by how many people there are listening to you.
One other thing you should keep in mind while telling stories is to understand the value of pacing. This means whether or not you should speak fast or slowly, which areas in the story you need to adhere to speed, and when to use pauses.
Pacing and timing make stories more immersive and enjoyable to the listener. For example, if you’re describing a situation that is rather tense, then it will help to speak that part of the story with more speed than others. If you’re trying to be suspenseful, you can say the story slowly as if to build tension. You can also use pauses and breaks before reveals and punchlines to add effect.
Other “no’s” and “don’t’s” to keep in mind
Here are some other things you shouldn’t do when telling your stories and other general things you need to keep in mind.
- Don’t see it as a competition – If there’s someone in the group who’s also a good storyteller, never tell a story for the sake of “one-upping” them. Instead, tell stories for the sake of telling stories and for the sake of socializing. It’s not a competition.
- Don’t see stories as ego-boosters – Even though being good at telling a story in conversation will help you boost your self-esteem, never use this skill as a way of feeding your ego. Don’t tell stories for yourself, but rather, tell stories for your listeners. You can focus your attention on your story for the sake of alleviating anxiety, but you must never forget that you’re doing it for your listeners.
- Don’t give up if you fail on your first few attempts – If this is not something you’re used to, then there’s a very high chance you’re going to falter on your first few attempts. Despite this, it is vital that you don’t give up. Keep your end goal in mind and just keep on going forward. It’s going to be worthwhile for you in the end.
Knowing how to tell a story in conversation is one of the most vital social skills any person can have. Just keep on practicing, re-read this article if you have to, and give it time. Eventually, you will have the ability to tell stories so masterfully, you’ll capture the attention of everyone in the room.