Two Line Stories – Examples

"An Ethiopian taxi driver in NYC once shared his grandfather's favorite saying with me: A man who beats his horse will soon be walking."

From Sheila on Easing a Story into your job interview #

Dear Annette,

Would love some examples of two line stories you have used in a business meeting.

Sheila

Dear Sheila,

Business meetings are a great place for two sentence stories. I even have some one sentence stories!

“An Ethiopian taxi driver in NYC once shared his grandfather’s favorite saying with me: A man who beats his horse will soon be walking.”

When I see someone who uses punitive measures to control behavior, I sometimes find a way to tell this tiny story.  It requires a very light tone and I choose to present it as an indictment on my own behavior when I was younger.  I might even add: “By the time I was thirty I was surrounded by dead horses,” and follow with “You might be interested in something I learned in grad school”… or from my mentor….”

In a meeting with a pretty hip client (otherwise I wouldn’t have mentioned sex) I told this quick story:

“When I worked at JWT – we used to say it’s “a great place to work if your parents could afford to send you there!” We did a weekend training at the beach full of sex, drugs and rock and roll but I still learned the most important concept I’ve ever learned about marketing – the Key Response.”

After that story I usually have permission to talk about using a Key Response to guide communication design.  I like to focus on what/how we want a listener to think/feel and after experiencing a communication rather than starting from the point: “What do we want to communicate?” The sex, drugs and rock and roll on the beach usually lowers inhibitions paving the way for better communication!

One more?

First, let me say that events and anecdotes about people close to the project usually provide your most powerful stories.

First, let me say that events and anecdotes about people close to the project usually provide your most powerful stories.  For instance, I volunteer to support local food and local community gardens.  I am also on my local Artists Directory.  Last Saturday I attended a planning day for artists who among many other things want to run a month-long focus on the culinary arts with a focus on local food. They mentioned community gardens. I wanted to build enthusiasm and share a contact name. I shared this short story:

“Grace XX our county ag person, already holds events when kids cook what they grow in the Allendale Community Garden. Last time I helped, all my kids competed for the privilege to grate carrots and apples until they realized it was work … and dangerous! Most of our knuckles survived.”

Everyone there knows where Allendale is.  I wanted to build a visual image for an already successful community garden with images of the garden, maybe a big kitchen area, lots of kids, smells of the apples cooking, etc.  My secondary purpose was to establish myself as a resource.  I can put them in touch with the person who will best coordinate events.  And finally I was acknowledging that there is hard labor involved.  Too many people already approach Grace with ideas but lack the discipline to help make things happen.

I could have said, “I know the people at Allendale, call me if you need a contact. But don’t call if you just want to swoosh in and swoosh out.”

But I don’t think it would have had the same effect.

So Sheila, does this help? Does anyone else have a two-line story?

Disclaimer: This isn’t like a haiku where you can only have only so many syllables and literally X number of lines. A “two-line” story is merely a concept so we remember just how tiny a story can be.

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11 thoughts on “Two Line Stories – Examples”

  1. avatar of syble solomon

    I’m usually very responsible when it comes with money, but can you believe I bought a time-share sight unseen?!?! Talk about stupid!

    This leads to talking about how knowing what to do isn’t the same as doing it in the moment. Of course I knew better than to make a financial commitment under the pressure of a slick talking salesman, but I still did it. About 80-90% of our financial choices are based on emotional triggers, not facts and rational thinking–but once we make a choice, we rationalize our thinking! Money is a tough topic to talk about and as a speaker it makes it easier for people to relate to me if I start with my own story of bad choices.

  2. avatar of lisa

    My two liner: My husband didn’t propose to me. I assumed.

    This has proven to be a great way to talk about assumptions in relationships and in communication — plus it’s true!

  3. avatar of lisa

    My two liner: My husband didn’t propose to me. I assumed.

    This has proven to be a great way to talk about assumptions in relationships and in communication — plus it’s true!

  4. avatar of sheila carroll

    Annette,
    Thanks for the reply. Here is a two-liner told to me by Idris Shah, a sufi storyteller who spoke of the power of story to restore us to our original selves.

    A man walking down a road spied a ring in the dust which he saw was magical and said, “Ring, ring, do your work.” The ring changed him back into the man he was before he found the ring,

  5. avatar of sheila carroll

    Annette,
    Thanks for the reply. Here is a two-liner told to me by Idris Shah, a sufi storyteller who spoke of the power of story to restore us to our original selves.

    A man walking down a road spied a ring in the dust which he saw was magical and said, “Ring, ring, do your work.” The ring changed him back into the man he was before he found the ring,

  6. avatar of oana juncu

    Hi Annette,
    Thank you for making me think about the 2 lines story. I usually use of a one line takeaway, or metaphor to introduce or end a story, this idea is even more powerful.
    One e again thanks for sharing.
    Best,
    Oana

  7. avatar of oana juncu

    Hi Annette,
    Thank you for making me think about the 2 lines story. I usually use of a one line takeaway, or metaphor to introduce or end a story, this idea is even more powerful.
    One e again thanks for sharing.
    Best,
    Oana

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