Tom Wofford is a close friend who I met years ago in college. He is a professional writer and the editor of my book, Nerd-to-English. Much of Tom’s other writing work includes magazine articles, fiction books, celebrity interviews, and historical books. He also works on local and national marketing projects and has years of experience managing theaters.
Occasionally I will hear him tell a story from our mutual past that is not what I remember. He did this one day when I had accompanied him to his interview of a celebrity.
After no one else was around, I said that was not how I remembered the story. He replied in an open and honest tone, “I know, but it sounded better that way!”
He was right, it did sound better that way. And I had to mentally process that concept.
I’m very fact oriented. It fits with my technically-oriented education and my early work as an engineer. In that line of work, a minor variance from established fact or standard can be costly.
However, since that exchange with Tom I have often considered his approach and how that fits with how we all communicate (or fail to do so).
With his “changes,” his story was more interesting and engaging. There was nothing deceitful and it was not done to try to inappropriately impress anyone. It was like a movie “based on a true story.” Most everyone enjoys these stories and accepts (and likely appreciates) it when the story is not a one hundred percent factual documentary.
I have long said that we are all in sales. Whether it be for our company, for a job, for our ideas, or even for where we want a group to go for lunch. In marketing and sales, accuracy and honesty are important to long-term healthy relationships. But having an engaging and interesting story is also important and at times, likely more important.
While the engineer in me can still get stuck on extreme accuracy of all details, the marketeer in me realizes that for a story to be engaging, some details can change (as long as the core message remains honest). The changes may help set the story, explain a point, or make a lesson clearer.
Glenn S. Phillips is the author of Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. His website, www.nerdtoenglish.com, will lead you to more information about effective communication training, risk assessments and genuinely helpful tips. You can email Glenn directly at email@example.com.
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