Have you ever noticed how often we correct each other on minor details? When you hear someone telling a story and they get one small specific detail wrong do you hear others chime in? Do you chime in? I notice this at work, at parties, and even between my own kids.
Picture this. You are at a party and someone is trying to tell this great story, and someone else who knows the details is right next to them…helping.
Person 1: “So last Wednesday, I was walking down Main Street and you will never guess who I met.”
Person 2: “I believe it was Tuesday.”
Person 1: “Oh yeah, right, so Tuesday, I was walking down Main Street.”
Person 2: “I thought you said it was North Street?”
Neither correction matters to the listener. We are still there anxiously waiting to hear about who they met on the street, and the specific day or specific street is much less relevant.
Whenever I see this happen, I watch the storyteller. Their story, yes their story, is being taken over by someone else. Their frustration rises, and eventually they are forced to say “why don’t you just tell it then.”
A few years ago, my wife and I were at a concert. It was a pretty intimate venue so we felt like we were really part of something amazing. The band began talking about their new song. This song had not been heard before, and deals with the tragic loss of someone close.
“When death like a gypsy, comes to steal what I love” is one of the lines.
One of the band member began to share a story.
“So this song deals with the loss of someone close. And how hard it is when tragedy comes in and takes from you. I recently met someone who lost their friend in the nightclub fire in New Hampshire. Someone close to them.”
From the crowd (more than one person): “Rhode Island…not New Hampshire.”
There was silence. Silence that resulted from our collective shame in trying to correct the details of a story that was meant to help us understand loss. I even caught myself during the story thinking “I think he means Rhode Island.”
Stories matter. They help us to understand each other and the world around us. Let people tell their stories. When you find yourself about to correct the details…stop and let it go. Remember it is only “specifics.”