The past few weeks I have been sitting across the table listening to my students tell me about trips they’ve taken and problems they’ve had as well as their latest and greatest toys. One of my students recently purchased an Ipod and loves it so she’s considering buying an Itouch. Another student went out dancing with her friends. Yet another student is busy preparing to release her English / Japanese book. It sometimes seems that there’s never a dull moment teaching English.
However, I think sometimes people forget the all important “it’s not what you said, but how you said it” philosophy. Would you rather hear someone tell you that you did a “good job” or a “great job”? Assuming you tried hard to accomplish the task then the answer’s easy – the later. Although if I change the question and say would you rather hear “good job” with a lot of enthusiasm or “great job” without emotion or feeling I think nearly everyone would change their answer.
A few weeks back I discussed this concept with some students and since that time I have been telling more and more students to consider it. One student in the class had a great time on their trip but in their explanation they failed to convey that enjoyment to the listeners. Their so-called “great” trip felt more like an OK trip. When I asked another student what they did over the weekend they replied, “nothing special” but with some pushing she told us about her trip to Shiga and the bbq she had had with her friends. I asked her to tell us as much information as she could – the who, why, what, when, how long, etc. as well as the atmosphere, the smell, and the colors. Simply telling us in depth what she called a “nothing special” event seemed to be full of life and a great adventure.
I ask that students do their best to paint a picture in the listener’s mind. In their own mind everything’s so clear but the listener is required to recreate the scene that is being told to them. Using adjectives to express the feeling they had at that time allows the listener to get a clearer picture of what they experienced. Never skip small details, in fact they are often the most important as we can begin to immerse ourselves into the story.
So the next time someone asks you if you have an exciting story just remember that it’s never about what happened but rather how you tell it.