The Art of Storytelling on a Date
By Frank Kermit
One of the challenges that people face when they go on dates is that they may not factor in that others will not understand what they are trying to communicate because of the way they express the stories of their life. Most people assume that the world will understand the moral and meaning of their story with the exact same intent as the storyteller. This simply is not so.
Audiences (including the person you want to be intimate with) will tend to interpret your story, not the way you interpret your own story, but the way the listener can best understand it, using the listeners own context and situated knowledge. Situated knowledge refers to a person's knowledge based on their life experience, education and intelligence and acknowledges just how limited it can be. A person who grows up in a situation where they never feel safe as a child, will have a situated knowledge as an adult to first view all experiences and interpret all stories with whether or not their safety is threatened. It is at the heart of misunderstanding each other.
For example, a man on a date wishes to communicate to a woman that he is confident because he believes that women are attracted to confident men. Most people understand this concept. If the man tells a story about a time in his life when he was confident, his story could potentially include disparaging remarks about other people he surpassed in the event that he found confidence in himself. In his philosophy, he may define being confident as not being afraid to speak his mind about others in a negative fashion. He tells his story with the intent to communicate that he is a confident man.
Now, if a woman interprets his storytelling communication in the same way he intends it, then she will likely also view him as a confident man. The core of this connection is the fact they already have similar primary values. However, it is just as possible that a woman may interpret that exact same man as completely lacking in confidence, because she interprets his disparaging remarks of others as a sign of insecurity on his part. In her philosophy, a man that must actively disparage others gets interpreted as a low value male who has no real character of his own. Instead of interpreting his storytelling with the same intent as he expresses it, she interprets his storytelling through her own situated knowledge and in this way, identifies a red flag which signals that she does not want to date him again.
The best stories to tell are true ones. Choose real life examples that include your best childhood memories, your peak life experiences, and express not only the things you love, but what are the emotional experiences behind those things you love. The person who loves sports and the person who loves cooking can still form a deep rapport and have a connection. Despite the surface subjects of sports and cooking not seemingly having much in common, it is how each person expresses how those things make them feel where a similarity can be found. The high excitement of watching the winning point being made in the big game can be very akin to the high excitement of an intensely well prepared meal being enjoyed at a holiday family gathering.
The kind of bond that effective storytelling can elicit on a date can make or break a relational happy ending. It can be the difference between finding someone "nice but uninteresting", and finding someone you spend your waking hours totally in anticipation of seeing them again, and again, and yet again.
If you find yourself on a number of first dates, but not a lot of second dates and cannot figure out what it is that you are doing wrong, you may want to develop some effective storytelling social skills so that every story you tell on a first date addresses the emotional needs of the person you are dating.
FRANK KERMIT MA
EXPERT RELATIONSHIP COACH
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