Show and Tell

by on January 22, 2014

Show Don't Tell Words Billboard Writing Advice Storytelling TipOften times some of the best lessons we learn are during childhood.  One of the activities that many of us participated in during our early school days was “show and tell”.  The object of “show and tell” was to bring something we liked into school and explain it to our classmates.  Among other things the activity attempted to get us comfortable speaking in front of others and helped develop our skills in conveying information.

As we mature into adulthood, we many times forget our childhood lessons.  We certainly attempt to convey information to others by “telling” them what we do or how we may feel on an issue, but we don’t always do as good a job at the “showing”.  I myself am guilty of this fact.  When individuals learn I am a life and job search coach they’ll usually ask for an explanation of what I do.  The more I try to describe the process with words, often times the more I can confuse the one asking the question.  Sometimes they draw their own conclusions based on what I am saying, and I find myself clarifying further with additional wording.  Others if not interested at all, just tune me out.  That in turn can only serve to frustrate me further.

The ability to convey your message works best when you can add an aspect of “show” to your “tell.”   So how might you do that as an adult?   In my profession I have the ability to do so by actually saying to the person inquiring of me, before I tell you what I do, let me ask you a couple of questions.   I may ask them if there is a particular goal they are trying to achieve that they have been having difficultly reaching.   Or I may ask them, what is the most significant challenge you face at the moment?  The more they tell me, the more questions I continue to ask.  By doing so, I am “showing” them how I work with a client.  And, they now have some perspective on what I do.

Admittedly not all situations lend themselves as easily as others to actually demonstrate what you do.  However, it does not stop you from relating a story to “illustrate” your talents.  For example, I am part of a business networking group where the participants look to help each other grow their businesses.  Each week we have a small period to educate our fellow group members.  Some of the best training has come when members have personalized the experience by relating a client experience to which all could identify.  If the person speaking used jargon about their profession, or got into the technical details, there is a good chance they would not connect with us.  However, a powerful or amusing story many times helps to make the connection.

So, the next time you find yourself saying such things as they never will understand what I do, or why should I even bother explaining myself, look first at yourself.  Have you just tried to “tell them” what you are getting them to understand?   Or have you also tried to show them either by demonstrating, showing them a visible example or relating a story that displays what you are trying to convey?  It often worked for introducing our thoughts to others around us when we were children.  It still has the capabilities to work as an adult.

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