As soon as the words “I remember when…” leave his (her) lips, you feel an involuntary shudder, and you brace yourself for another ten minutes of unproductive time. It’s not that he’s a poor storyteller or that his stories are unpleasant – they’re just unnecessary and… well…. frequent. Sometimes they’re stories you’ve heard before, and sometimes there’s no apparent point to them. If it was anyone other than your boss, you’d be tempted to just walk away.
Despite how it may seem, most Storytellers aren’t just talking because they love to hear themselves talk. Very often, it’s simply a reflection of their thinking style. They think in parables and pictures, and they communicate the same way. They don’t realize that many people can begin to find the stories a little tedious.
Two Storyteller Strategies
If you have a Storyteller boss, here are a couple of strategies you might want to try:
1. When Storyteller bosses are repeating a story you’ve heard before, interrupt them by telling them how much you enjoyed the story the first time – eg: “You told me about this! I loved that story!” They will (usually) stop repeating the story, and move to the point. Most importantly, by making a positive comment, you won’t make them feel stupid. Be careful, though, not to do this when they are telling the story for someone else’s benefit. They will most certainly not appreciate the interruption then.
2. When they begin launching into a story that you don’t feel you have the time to hear, interrupt them right at the beginning, and ask a question that is time related. eg: “Excuse me boss, sorry to interrupt. Just before I forget – is there a deadline for this project?” Asking a question will often short-circuit the boss’s story. When the interruption is time-related, it can have an even greater effect by subtly reminding the boss of deadlines.