Don’t Make Me Stop This Car!

by Doug Stevenson


“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”
William Shakespeare


STORY THEATER Tip of the Month – Be Pithy


Webster’s defines “pithy” as: “having substance and point; tersely cogent – concise.” When you are making your point, be pithy. Don’t use too many words. Say just what is needed. Be pithy!




When you hear that phrase, can’t you just see a mom or dad sitting in the driver’s seat of a car yelling at a kid, or kids, in the back seat? I can. It’s a phrase that has become an idiom in our cultural dialogue. Another one is, “I’ll give you something to cry about,” which ranks right behind, “You just wait till your father gets home.”

Idioms are a great way to connect with your audience. Because of my playful personality, I like to use them as spontaneous ad-libs when joking with my audience. If I have a wise-guy in the audience (not a heckler) who is having fun bantering back and forth with me, I’ll often turn to him and say, “That’s it. You’re grounded.” If two people are talking back and forth when they’re supposed to be listening to me, I’ll say, “Do I need to separate the two of you?”

In the case of “don’t make me stop this car,” you can use it to make a point about the need for people to resolve conflict quickly in the workplace. I can imagine a story about two people who have different learning styles or different personality profiles who must work together, but who don’t see eye to eye. A project is suffering because the two of them spend more time bickering than moving forward. The image of a supervisor saying to them, “don’t make me stop this car,” amplifies how childish their behavior is and how they need to grow up and get along. If presented with a nod and a wink, it will garner a laugh while it skewers bad behavior.

How do you use idioms to keep your audience laughing, listening and attentive?


Copyright 2005 by Doug Stevenson. Reprinted with permission. Doug Stevenson is the creator of the Story Theater Method. He is an author, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. Reach Doug at or 800.573.6196