The following is a guest post by Cody, inspired by the visit of Renfrew:
The man is a raconteur of the best sort. If you have nothing to say, he’ll fill the gaps, weave an interesting story, giving the salient bits in a way that isn’t tiresome or too direct.
Focusing on the content of the story, is much less important than using the story to evoke emotion and communicate particular qualities.
Of course, some stories have no purpose. Some stories have multiple purposes.
It’s interesting the kind of misattribution our minds naturally perform. It’s a particularly great mental backflip. One to relish if it’s working for you, or to be wary of if the storyteller himself has some ulterior motive at play (and you will probably never know).
One thing to take away is that anybody can make “generally interesting dude” work in the context of girls. The vast majority of people’s lives are so incredibly dull, that vicarious living is a real, and valuable thing.
It’s the reason some of the most popular entertainments are based around escaping to something more exciting. Science fiction, hot car chases through the desert, whirlwind romances in cliffs overlooking sapphire pools.
But it’s more than that, as well.
There is the primitive nature of our absolute LOVE for stories. It’s the oldest entertainment, and that gives it a primacy that is unbeatable for captivating our minds. A person speaking to you is always a high priority.
Babies turn their attention to faces.
Imagine sitting around a fire, under a condition of shared experiences. After the daily recounting of the hunt, there would not be a whole lot to speak about. Everyone experienced much of the same that day. So what was there to do besides create stories.
Look at the raptured face of, e.g. an uma thurman in the face of david carradine. We are primed by our socialization to appreciate raconteurs over anything.
So here’s my notes on taking a story, courtesy of Renfrew.
It’s not enough to be, you also have to seem**
Have a lot of these stories in the first place.
“Incredibly interesting dude” who can’t relate that, is not worth a whole lot more than “average boring guy”. you have to create the conditions to share that.
You have to do interesting shit to be able to talk about it. In a wide variety of domains.
Part of displaying the story in the first place is that is relates, in whatever thin way, to the topic at hand. It doesn’t jump out of nowhere, but flows smoothly from what happens before (this is of course, a breakable rule, but it enhances facile and style to acknowledge conversational waves).
There is a shortcut, a hack. You can also relate conversational threads to things you’ve read, or experiences you’ve had even if the link is only in YOUR head (this helps gain breadth a lot more quickly than actual experience normally allows).
Know your shit.
Being able to talk in a knowledgeable, or even just opinionated way about a topic. When you read a book, don’t fucking read it just to finish the book.
Although I even noticed him break this rule and speak on books he hadn’t read.
Bring out facts and figures. In Samoa the tradition of sleepcrawling is popular because of the way that they had to compensate for xxx. Vilnius has the world’s largest urban forest. 80% of the population in Japan works in the service sector, which means they are focused on politeness that pervades their culture. This kind of thing.
Put yourself in a position to practice.
The opportunities for storytelling are endless, but you are responsible for creating them. Storytelling in the context of friends is nothing more than the oft-feared “public speaking” than people shit their pants about. So the transition to exposition in front of aquaintances or stranger is not that big of a leap.
Ask clarifying questions.
To connect with someone at a deeper level, you need to show that you care about getting their perspective and understanding. This can be eliciting deeper concerns, or just making sure their attention is being held.
(Placename), you know it?
But why do you think that way?
What makes you say that?
How does that make you feel?
Even if the content of their response is not important, checking in to get reactions throughout a story encourages engagement.
A playful attitude is optimal
An attitude for life, as much as storytelling. Pretending you are cool shit just makes you stiff and awkward. Don’t be afraid to make fun of yourself, point out your foibles, and generally have fun with conversation. There are no penalties handed out for being imperfect.