Story Stealing and the Art of Questions

Stealing the Floor
We’ve all done it.

A friend is telling some story about the monster, cataclysmic, bomb-winter storm they experienced. No sooner than they get their bits of story out, take a breathe, we step in and interrupt with our version of a similar story. The story line and floor has been hijacked.

When we are just hanging out laughing and telling fun stories, this is no big deal. But if someone is prying back a layer of their life story, then to steal the floor is poor form.

However, we do this habitually.

The aim in our being with others is to not fill up the room but to make space in the room. Create space for others to plunge deeper into their stories. Linger. Allow for silence and reflection. Make space….

Asking Simple Questions
The craft of asking questions in conversation is one worth mastering.

When someone img_1249shares something, simply ask, “what was that like for you?”

Here’s the principle: DO NOT TURN THE CONVERSATION ONTO YOURSELF.

This is one of the simplest ways to be a companioning friend to another. Just keep asking curious questions. Let them tell their story until its all told out. Then ask them another question about them.

“Earlier you mentioned your mom, how is she doing?

“What was your child home like?”

When you were in China, what did you love most about the people?”

“Why do you like debriefing so much?”

So few of us are ever pursued in conversation.

My heart is cultivated when I am with matured, curious friends who ask me questions that cause me to pause and wonder about myself, life, or the Lord. I love being with friends who allow a conversation to linger on a single topic and a single person for as long as needed. And if someone’s turn doesn’t come up that time, well that is fine.

A Field Test
Ask a friend out for coffee. Start off with a “so what’s been going on in your life lately” type of question. Listen for a word, a phrase or an event that seems significant. Be curious. “Wow, your son made the basketball team. How cool! What does that feel like after his long illness?” And just keep on asking.

DO NOT TURN THE CONVERSATION ONTO YOURSELF. Oh, the urge will be there for sure. But resist. Stay the course. Keep the conversation on them.

This is a skill that can be developed, a craft that can be mastered.

It is a trait of a true companion friend. And it is a rare grace we can offer others.

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7 Responses to Story Stealing and the Art of Questions

  1. Ohanian says:

    I am so glad you are discussing this Scott. It actually happens with very mature believers too, who just have too much to say or want to connect and not realize they are “stealing”. And if this happens in a group, then forget it, the conversation is off and running in other directions than the story I started or question I was answering. But you know who else I am noticing does this, is the elderly, aging. Again very mature Believers but they are at an age and stage where they want to talk and recall.  Even though they said they want to hear about me and where I am at.  It happened 4 times this summer with 80 + year olds.  And I have now changed my expectation when we meet. Alot is happening for them when “stealing my story”.  I believe with them, it involves…trying to remember, reminisce, remind themselves, share their life, validate, seal, celebrate and porbably a few other things I have not yet though of.   I have been reflecting on this issue alot lately. And wonder what I WILL BE like at that age!   🙂 Thanks for the Blog!  🙂 Nairy Nairy Ohanian, D.Min Cross Cultural Pastoral Counselor Barnabas International USA- Middle East

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    • Scott S says:

      Thanks Nairy. This is such a helpful reminder. We all have so much life to process. May we increasingly be those ears for one another. And especially for our elder brothers and sisters. This is a great observation. Yes, what will any of us be like at that age…..Grateful for you,
      SS

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  2. Maureen Chabot says:

    Oh Scott, that is such a good word! Making comparisons is a tough one too because it brings the conversation back to me!! Gosh, I literally just did that yesterday! Ugh! Thanks so much for your valuable insight my brother!

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  3. dave106 says:

    Regarding older people: We also have noticed this in folk who realize they are losing their memory or their ability to track with a conversation. They want to keep the topic on something they can control so they aren’t embarrassed.

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  4. pkedwards2014 says:

    Scott!! This was just a GREAT post and so so so practical and good teaching.

    May I have your permission to share with others and include in my teaching down the road?? With credit to you!

    And on a scheduling note …. I AM going to be in Sioux Falls Monday and Tuesday nights of your Kairos week. Let’s share a meal? If that works for you ….

    Pam

    >

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    • Scott S says:

      Thanks Pam. Yes please: ANYONE CAN USE ANY OF THESE BLOGS FOR ANY PURPOSE. PLEASE PASS ON THE LINKS TO WHOMEVER YOU WANT; COPY AND SHARE AS YOU LIKE. Thanks for giving the source.

      Thanks for the encouraging feedback, it encourages me to keep putting these out.

      SS

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