Posted by: George E Burney | May 23, 2014

How To Use a Pertinent Story

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Stories are wonderful tools for public speakers. If the story is interesting, believable, and pertinent to your discussion, it can immediately convince your audience to accept the premise you’re advocating.

For instance, suppose your point is that when unexpected events occur, events that at first glance appear to be setbacks, we should avoid immediately setting out to overcome or undo them, but should instead look for the “silver lining in the cloud.” In other words, the best approach is to first calmly assess the true implications of the undesired changes. They may be blessings in disguise.

Tell a Pertinent Story

To support your point, you could give examples of well-known, beneficial inventions that resulted from blunders or mistakes. Or, you could tell a plausible story, perhaps one like “My Wife,” a short story by Guy de Maupassant.

In that story, several good friends are fondly reminiscing about their bachelor days. They all agree that one of them has a perfect wife, and her husband agrees with their assessment, but admits that he didn’t actually choose her, but married her against his will. He then tells them how he got his charming and delightful wife.

A confirmed bachelor, he was a guest at the home of a relative, along with others who were invited to his cousin’s wedding. His first day there, he was paired off with the young daughter of a retired army colonel, a girl who bored him to death, and whom he was determined to avoid thereafter.

That night, he attended a party a short distance away where he got so drunk he could hardly stand up. When he returned to his uncle’s home, he had difficulty locating the door to his bedroom. He finally found the door he was looking for, stumbled into the room, and collapsed into an armchair, where he slept soundly.

The next morning, he was rudely awakened and attacked by the colonel, who found him in his daughter’s bedroom. Despite his swearing that nothing had happened between himself and the girl, the colonel threatened to blow the young man’s brains out for ruining the reputation of his daughter.

The other guests, especially the mothers, decided that he must marry the girl, an outcome he frantically tried to avoid. Finally, he conceded that the best way to end the growing scandal (and to remain alive) was to ask for her hand in marriage. Her father consented, and now, he admitted to his friends, he had been happily married for the previous five years.

Connect the Story to Your Discussion

This story, or one similar to it, certainly makes your point. Notice that it doesn’t matter if the story is true or not. What matters is that your audience can relate to it, that it’s true to life, and that it’s pertinent to your discussion.

After telling the story, you could draw attention to the fact that the young man had every intention of remaining single, but was forced by circumstances to make what may have been the best decision of his life.

Afterwards, you need only connect that thought to the matter you’re discussing, stressing the point that our worst blunders sometimes lead to excellent results.

When you use a pertinent story this way, you nullify contrary sentiments, resistance, or reservations in the minds of your listeners, making your argument more persuasive.

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