Great communicators treat storytelling as an art. They know it’s among the most effective ways to make a point, set a tone and connect with an audience of any size. Stories bring organizational mission to life, give a face to a case and leave long-lasting impressions. As fundraisers, we are eager to tell stories, and if done well, we have the opportunity to entertain, educate and inspire. We often enter rooms prepared to network, armed with our best stuff, ready to impress! What could possibly go wrong?
The next time you are in a small group of people sharing stories, listen for the “one upper.” The person who feels compelled to top the story being told (often by interrupting before the story is done).
“We are so proud of our son, he just started playing division 3 baseball and…”
“You must be proud, my daughter got a full scholarship to play division one soccer.”
“Our organization just launched a capital campaign for $1.5M to. . .”
“That’s exciting, we just blew the top of our organizations $37M campaign.”
“My husband is training for his first 5K and. . .”
“Good for him, I just completed my 3rd Ironman.”
While I believe that most “one uppers” are trying to connect more than compete, they often hog the light and force the other person into the shadows. In their eagerness to relate they often miss the opportunity to learn more, ask questions and celebrate the person they are speaking with.
Confession: I am a recovering one upper! I love to tell stories and entertain. I am sometimes too eager to make my point at the expense of connecting with yours. I am an interrupter and I am trying to get better.
When visiting with folks, I have come to understand that the most important story is the one they are willing to share. When I allow myself to listen with no need to interrupt, expand or one up, I have found that I relax and connect even more.
True Story: While attending a donor cultivation event in Southern California last fall, I came in on the tail end of a story and heard “So that’s when my uncle was teaching Einstein to play ping-pong in my grandmother’s basement.”
Sometimes even a one upper is left speechless!