Why People Go Off A Tangent When Sharing A Story

Why People Go Off A Tangent When Sharing A Story

Picture this: you have learned the power of storytelling and have decided to share more stories with the people you meet.

So you go ahead and share, after five minutes you are still at it, after 10 minutes you are still talking and before you know it, you have done a monologue and have no idea how to stop.

This may not have been your personal experience, but I bet you have some ideas of the situation.

At times, when people decide to share a story, they go off a tangent and can’t stop anymore. As uncomfortable as this might be for the person listening, I can assure you, it’s uncomfortable for those sharing as well.

A question I have been asked lately

Lately, I have been delivering training within organisations on how to use stories to network.

And one question I am asked over and over again is: how do I avoid going off a tangent when sharing a story?

My answer is always the same, because the reasons are often the same. People who go off a tangent when sharing a story might face two situations:

  1. They might fear the reaction from the other side
  2. They haven’t spent enough time reflecting on the story itself

I’ll explain what those situations look like and what they bring.

When you fear the reaction from the other side

The moment you share a story with someone, there’s often that brief uncertain pause where you don’t know how they are going to react. If you are not worried about it, you’ll wait to hear from them or ask a question.

However, if you fear the reaction from the other side to the point that it makes you anxious, you’ll continue talking so that you don’t have to face either the silence, the follow-up questions, or in general the uncertainty.

What happens at that point though, is that the conversation has no space to continue anymore and you won’t be sharing or creating a connection.

When you don’t spend enough time reflecting on the story

Not spending enough time on a story means that you say it for the first time in front of people. Which looks like starting one thought, not closing that thought, starting another thought, and not finishing that other thought. And before you know it, you have opened so many doors, you have forgotten what your point was in the first place. But at this point saying “I forgot my point”, is not an option so you continue to talk and talk and talk. As a result, you go off a tangent and you don’t share the most important piece of any story: the lesson.

What to do instead

One thing you can do if telling your story in person, is to have a glass of water with you when sharing. This will help to give a pause: you share, you drink, and listen to the other side. Another option to avoid going off a tangent is to practice, practice, practice. You don’t necessarily want to practice the actual story, but you want to give yourself the space and time to reflect on the stories you might share publicly.

What to do next

When you’re ready:

  1. Reflect on what your reaction is when sharing a story, do you go off a tangent?
  2. Book a 1:1 coaching session with me so that I can get you ready for your next speaking engagement
  3. Learn what your story is and how to articulate it with your clients, join my next cohort of the storytelling online course

Did this article resonate with you? Let me know in the comments

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