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The UX of Story Telling

I asked Ethan to tell me about his day and he got frustrated and annoyed.  It is not natural to be able to tell a story and it takes practice.  So I started Ethan’s education on The Art Story Telling.

Disclaimer:  This is highly simplified.  Ethan is 9.

A good story has a beginning, middle and end.  In essence, it goes like this:

  1. Beginning.  A story has a set up.  Where are you?  What is the context?  Ethan said, “I was in class listening to the teacher.  She asked a tough math question.”
  2. Middle.  Something happens.  This is the drama part.  Something has to happen where you don’t know the outcome.  Ethan’s example was “I came up with the answer, raised my hand, but the bell rang for lunch, so I couldn’t answer.”  This creates drama.  Would Ethan be able to give his answer?  Would he forget?  I am hooked into the outcome.
  3. End.  There is a conclusion.  A punchline.  An unexpected outcome.  A happy or sad moment.  Something punctuates the story.  After the end, the person should feel, “Ahh, the drama is concluded.  I feel satisfied.”  Ethan’s end was, “Right before the day ended, I told the teacher I had an answer to the question.  I answered right and was the only kid in class to do so.  I felt really happy.”  Perfect.  The story had a happy conclusion.

When someone asks about your day, they are not asking for a minute-by-minute accounting.  They are asking for a simple story.  Let’s look at Ethan’s story without commentary.

I was in class listening to the teacher.  She asked a tough math question. I came up with the answer, raised my hand, but the bell rang for lunch, so I couldn’t answer. Right before the day ended, I told the teacher I had an answer to the question.  I answered right and was the only kid in class to do so.  I felt really happy.

This is a fantastic answer to the question, “How was your day?”.  It gave me insight into his personality, into the kinds of things he was doing in school and to how he was performing.  He showed passion and interest.

It’s not a complicated story at all.  It’s not a joke or a deep insightful commentary on the world.  It’s just structured with the right pieces.  It takes some practice, but if you can follow this path, you can communicate better with your family and colleagues.

Every single say, you encounter something that can be a good story.  Think of a small moment of drama.  Some point in the day where you didn’t know the outcome or were surprised by the outcome.  Think of any moment you laughed or got frustrated.

Humans remember better when there is a story.  We comprehend better with a story.  If you can communicate with stories you will see real benefits in many aspects of your life.  Next time some asks, “How was your day?” you can give it a try.  Let me know if you see a difference.

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