Want to be a better writer or speaker? Show; don’t tell.
Want to sell more products and services? Show; don’t tell.
Want your kids to live in Christ-like character? Show; don’t tell.
Show; don’t tell. These three words were the core message of my very first advertising course many moons ago. And they were among the countless powerful (and practical!) words I heard at the She Speaks conference I recently attended with Proverbs 31 Ministries.
In my business, as a writer, coach and mentor, I do a lot of telling. At home, I consider it a good day when I do a lot more telling than I do yelling. But the women at She Speaks challenged me to do more showing. They sold me on the importance of storytelling, which is something I’ve never considered a strength.
To be honest, I can get a bit carried away with my telling. With my clients, I can ramble on a bit…forgetting to pause and listen. With my kids, I can get preachy and out of touch. Have you ever done that? One time, I was so far into lecturing my son that I honestly couldn’t remember what he had done or what words of wisdom I was attempting to share with him. He was respectful and gave me the “Yes, Mom” I demanded. But I’m certain he had no clue what I was talking about.
I’ve noticed that when I take just a few minutes to consider how I can SHOW my message, I get dramatically different results. Like the time my son was upset about how he had been treated by some kids at school and I sat down with him and shared a story about my childhood. Then God gave me the perfect analogy of a barbed wire fence that I was able to share with him. As I explained how he could untangle himself from this mess, my son hung on every word. He could follow exactly what I was saying. Pretty remarkable, right?
As it relates to business, the best way for me to share what I do is to tell the stories of my clients and their successes. And this is one of the things I teach my clients to do – share testimonials so people can identify with and understand the benefits of the product or service. It’s the “before and after” tactic that makes weight loss ads so powerful; we can follow their story and we see ourselves on a similar journey.
A story makes the critical difference. If your little one has Show and Tell at school, you know this is true. It’s a heck of a lot easier to tell your story when you have something to guide you – something you can show people. Can you imagine all those Kindergarteners standing up in front of the room and just talking about something without the prop?
It’s such a simple concept, but it can be difficult for me to implement. In fact, I’m sure if you read through my last 50 blog posts, you would find a lot more telling than showing. But, I’m putting this out there for public accountability: I’m going to work on my storytelling skills personally and professionally. I’m going to make it a priority to share my message through meaningful stories so my friends, readers, listeners, clients and children can follow me on this journey.
How am I going to hone these skills? First, I’ll spend more time learning from the Master of the Parable, Jesus Christ. I will fix my eyes on him, just as I learned from Luann Prater. I’ll also dive into more of the books I enjoy from P31 writers like Lysa TerKeurst, Glynnis Whitwer, Renee Swope, Karen Ehman and more. And if I ever get frustrated that my storytelling isn’t good enough, I’ll watch this reminder from the brilliant Ira Glass.
What about you? Are you a shower or a teller? What can you do today to fine tune your storytelling skills?