© Judy Helm Wright http://www.ArtichokePress.com
Do you wish you knew the reason your grandfather left Poland? Did you ever ask him? Perhaps he was embarrassed or sad about leaving his homeland and family members there. Maybe he thought by not talking about the past he would be free to move forward in his new life.
Or, maybe, no one sat down and showed enough empathy and interest to gather the story.
How to Encourage Story Telling
When you have an opportunity to visit with someone who has a story to tell–and that means all of us–ask open ended questions to start the conversation, such as:
- What part of your childhood was most meaningful to you? Why?
- Was there a certain person who influenced you the most? Who?
- How did you make a decision about your line of work?
- What made you choose your wife/husband?
- Can you think of a defining moment or crossroads in your life? Will you share it with me?
- What is your favorite breakfast and why?
- Can you describe a typical day for you when you were in your 30’s? What did you do, dress like, enjoy doing with friends and family and occupy your spare time?
- If you could go back and change one period of time, which one would it be? Why?
- If you could give some advice to your grandchildren, what would you say?
Be an Active Listener
People are more apt to open up when they feel the listener really cares about them as an individual. They want their story to be told in a safe way. Reassure them that if there is something that comes up that they decide not to share, that you will delete it. Here are other ideas:
- Maintain eye contact and nod your head occasionally to indicate you are listening.
- Use your body to express your acceptance and attention. Lean forward a bit.
- Don’t interrupt. If he needs encouragement, say “What else can you tell me about that.”
- Allow periods of silence. The storyteller may need to reflect on the question.
- Memories may cause tears to flow. Allow these emotions, they are natural and normal.
- Respond with positive feedback to encourage them to share their thoughts.
Stories Can Bring Peace and Understanding
Use the power of sharing stories to heal, enlighten, and to bridge the isolation so many families feel. By sharing a story that teaches and enriches life, the story teller gains a sense of confidence. He or she also feels valued and acknowledged as an important part of the world.
You may also enjoy taking an online UDEMY class called “Write Your Memoir in a Weekend,” found at https://www.udemy.com/write-your-memoir-in-a-weekend-putting-life-in-life-stories/. Use the coupon code “Halfoff” for a 50% savings.