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Two simple tips to help you elicit more meaningful stories

We live in a story-sharing world with new and emerging platforms (like Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram) that enable us to share stories, which is amazing but they only showcase what a person wants to share. Now if you’re like me, I always want to know the full story behind the moments that my friends, colleagues and family post. This means when I meet up with them, in our busy lives, I only have that small window to find out about the stories they have shared (as well as the stories that they haven’t, which are usually the raw, real and more meaningful ones).

So how can we more effectively elicit these real and more meaningful stories in our meet ups with friends, colleagues and family, so that we can form deeper connections with the people that matter most?

In our business, My Word, we constantly ask questions to learn about people’s life stories and business’ stories, there is no other way to find out. Our Team have worked hard in designing tips and methodologies to make sure we capture the right stories that mean the most to people. So today I am going to share our top two tips to help you elicit and then learn the real stories of your friends, colleagues and family.

Tip 1: It’s always in the ‘follow-up’ questions.

My friend Julian Morgans, an editor at Vice Magazine, explained to me that, as an interviewer, it’s often during a follow-up question that the real story falls into your lap. These ‘follow-up’ questions are the ‘how and why’ questions as well as sympathetic responses and gestures of surprise or admiration. For example, my grandma (Nonna, pictured) and I were discussing the price increases in the Melbourne property market. She started telling me that, When I bought my first house in Melbourne at the age of 23… Blah blah blah…” I could have let her keep talking (she loves a chat) but I stopped her and asked, “Wait, how did you even get a mortgage approved?” She then said, Well, I was a widow with two babies so the bank wouldn’t give me a loan, but I went into the bank everyday until the bank manager gave me a loan to get rid of me”. I was in absolute awe of this persistent and strong woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer and if I had not asked a follow-up question I would never have elicited that amazing story.

Tip 2: Really Listen to the answer to your questions.

This is again something that sounds easy but can be challenging sometimes (especially when we have things on our mind or we are distracted by our phones). To be an active listener you must give out the right body language and most importantly actually realise when you might have tuned out. When this happens you must come back to being present with the person. Now, there are small techniques to help you with this like looking directly at the person, wiggling your toes or thinking about the last thing you remember them saying. For example, I recently caught up with a friend and was asking them about their new project but as they started explaining it to me, I was also thinking about an email I hadn’t responded to; an invoice I forgot to send off and when I should fit in my grocery shopping for that day. I realised I hadn’t listened to anything they had just said, so I came back to the conversation and the last thing I remembered hearing was, It’s eating into my exercise routine”, so I asked, Hang on a sec, with your exercise, why can’t you do it at lunch time?”, which meant I heard a funny story involving sweaty hair and a red face at an important post lunch meeting, which I otherwise would have missed.

In summary, I challenge you to use the above two tips the next time you are meeting up with a friend, colleague or family member and see what raw, real and more meaningful stories you can elicit. This will not only enable you to connect and understand them on a deeper level, but it will show them that you actually care.


Danielle Stewart

The aim of my blog is to share tips and techniques to easily elicit more insightful stories that will assist your own formula for developing meaningful connections with others and yourself. The content for each of my blogs is authentically written, drawing on my knowledge, passion and expertise from personal life experiences and insights built from my corporate background.

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