↑ comment by Evan_Gaensbauer ·
2014-12-15T17:17:14.181Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I didn't get direct answers to your query, but I got some suggestions for dealing with the problem.
One person told me to defuse an awkward situation if a story isn't well-received with a joke:
I find it helps to jokingly acknowledge when a story fell flat. "...and then I found $5"
Also when I make a joke that doesn't get a laugh, I'll look at the time on my phone and say "9:35. I'm calling it." or whatever. That gets a laugh usually and helps defuse the situation.
Another friend suggested it's all about practice, and bearing through it:
Volume, brah. Volume of social interactions coupled with metacognition and intelligence.
That particular friend is a rationalist. By 'metacognition', I believe he meant 'notice you're practicing the right skills'. Basically, in your head, or on a piece of paper, break down the aspect(s) of storytelling you want to acquire as skills, and only spend time training those.
For example, you probably want to get into the habit of telling stories so the important details that make the story pop come out, rather than getting into the habits of qualifying the points with background details that listeners won't care about. This is a problem I myself have with storytelling. In each of our own minds, we're the only one who remember the causal details that led to the something extraordinary sequence of events that day on vacation. Our listeners don't know the details, because they weren't there, so assume you didn't make any glaring omissions until someone asks about it.
Also, try starting small, I guess. Like, tell shorter anecdotes, and get to bigger ones. Also, I don't believe it's disingenuous to mentally rehearse a short story you might tell beforehand. I used to believe this, because good storytellers I know like my uncle always seem to tell stories off the cuff. Having a good memory, and not using too much jargon, helps. However, I wouldn't be surprised if good storytellers think back on their life experiences and think to themselves 'my encounter today would make a great story'.
Here are some suggestions for generating environments limiting the social costs of telling lame stories.
Another friend of mine thought I was the one asking for how to to limit the social cost of telling lame stories, so he suggested I tell him stories of mine I haven't told him before, and he won't mind if they're bad. This isn't a bad suggestion. You yourself could go on social media, and ask your friends if they want to get together to share stories. If you don't want to go on social media, try texting or calling a friend about it.
If being so direct still seems too awkward, invite a friend or two for coffee, or to the bar, under a pretext of hanging out, and specifically tell stories. Let your friend know that you think you've got a good story, but you might be awkward at telling it, so you hope they don't mind. If they're already you're friend, I expect they'll be genuine and patient enough. However, I recommend ensuring that whoever you're telling a story to is in a neutral or good mood when you start. It's no good to practice storytelling to a friend who just went through a breakup, or lost their job yesterday, or whatever.
I believe this is a good idea for a meetup. At the CFAR alumni reunion this last summer, one alumna hosted a storytelling session. She had a whiteboard out with story suggestions, and we passed around a stick to ensure everyone knew only the designated speaker was supposed to be talking, and there was a short period for questions about the story after each one had finished. Who got to tell a story after the first volunteered happened spontaneously as more people eagerly volunteered because the stories were fun, and their memories about their own experiences were jogged from hearing the last story. However, you don't need all that stuff for a storytelling session to be worthwhile.
The room was jampacked with nearly 30 people at first, and never was less than 10, and the storytelling session went on for several hours rather than only one as was originally intended. To me, this is a testament to how much nerds, or folk from this cluster in person-space, want an environment to try these things in. If you attend a rationality or LessWrong meetup near where you live, try hosting or suggesting a meeting with another group of friends you know, like a meetup for a different topics, or some group of gamers you're a part of. If that doesn't bear out, try again with someone else, or try starting smaller.