The fine art of oral storytelling
is becoming less and less common in the modern era
. Certainly everyone tells
over the dinner table
or to their friends
but full-fledged oral traditions
are rare. As a result,
many people don't have a good sense of manners
dealing with a storyteller
. Here are some key points
to keep in mind, to make sure that everyone else also
, and to keep the storyteller
coming after you
- Never Ask for a Story by the Punchline. If you have some favorite story or joke that you want to hear, make sure you ask for it in a roundabout fashion. "The story about the prank Fred pulled" is usually an acceptable description; "The story about how Fred put a cow on the roof and they couldn't get it down" gives away a lot more of the story, and your fellow audience members won't appreciate it.
- Never Correct the Storyteller. Stories have rhythms, and a storyteller will frequently "get into" a story. A good audience with a good storyteller will often be in a kind of pleasant trance listening. Nothing disturbs that experience so much as someone interrupting to say "No, no, you got it wrong. The police car didn't have its siren on, it just had lights", or any other similar correction. Saying "You forgot to mention the donuts" as soon as the story ends is also unacceptable. If you want the storyteller to know he or she got a detail wrong, tell them afterwards. Interruptions can ruin a story.
- Don't Assume You Know the Story. This goes hand in hand with the previous comment. Oral traditions are fairly fluid by their very nature, and stories will gain and lose details as time passes. Some of this is embellishment; some of it is newly learned from research. Frequently, different storytellers will have their own unique variations of the same basic tale. Telling the storyteller they "got it wrong" is usually bad manners, unless you're actually teaching them. Wait until you can talk to them in relative privacy, and ask them about anything you had questions about the validity of then.
Of course, there are situations in which these rules don't apply
. Use your best judgment
, and a hefty dose of common sense
. The best rule of thumb
, however, is simply to ask: "If I were telling this story, how would I appreciate someone doing this?" The storytellers