The deep magic that comes of even the most mundane question, “How was your weekend?” is… story. All day, every day, we collect stories because this is how we humans find our place in the world. Story is the deep magic because story creates the threads that tie us to each other. We share our stories, and those with whom we share them become, sometimes closely and sometimes distantly, part of our tribe.
You go through your day and, often without realizing it, you are collecting stories. Hanging around the water cooler you ask a question about a colleague’s weekend, the answer is a story. Chatting with a friend about the latest event in her career, story. Sitting on the subway overhearing two strangers talk, story.
Mostly we share ordinary stories of what we did yesterday or last week. Stories that fit into the realm of a normal day. But ask the right questions and it’s astonishing what we can learn about people, even those about whom we thought we knew so much.
Stories are bridges that span the gap between us and others.
Questions tease the stories from other people and into us. We share in the richness of community. Their story isn’t ours in its specifics; but we can always find a bit of our self in another’s story if we are willing to look for the link.
Stories show us, no matter the difference in the details, that our shared humanity lies in our common experiences. Experiences such as being afraid, of having regrets, of achieving success, of dreaming of who we can become, of love, and the desire for a brighter future.
It’s easy, in our world of conversation by text, to lose sight of the importance of sharing our stories face to face, or voice to voice. It’s easy in our too fast world to be more engaged with surface answers than meaningful questions. But joy and juice lie in the questions, because the questions lead into the hearts and souls of the people in our lives. Not only the people in our lives all the time but also those people who show up for only a moment and though never seen again, are also never forgotten.
Questions open the way to expanding our connections with others. But the questions don’t just lead to connections with other people. When we ask questions of ourselves we find a deeper understanding of both events that have shaped our lives, and dreams that we haven’t yet lived into. When we ask questions of ourselves we go beneath the surface of who we are to the deep person within us.
Some questions that inspire conversations (with others and within ourselves):
1) What was the scariest thing you have ever done? Why was it scary to you? What did you learn about yourself from the doing of it?
2) If you could change one thing in your life what would you change, and why?
3) What was the best day you have ever spent? What made that particular day so wonderful?
4) What is the thing you said, “no” to that you most wish you had said, “yes” to? Why do you wish you’d said, “yes” and why did you say, “no” at the time?
5) What dream do you still hold that hasn’t yet come true? What would you like to do about that?
6) What comes so easily to you that you take it for granted but others notice (aka your superpower)? What’s the best part of that?
7) Apart from your family, what is most important to you and why?
These are just some simple questions we can ask that lead us to dive deeper and tease out the gems that we so often keep hidden in our mental “story cupboard.”
When we ask questions that lead to other questions we dive into the realm of story. Open ended questions rather than ones that can be answered “yes” or “no” will take us on a journey. Whether that journey is with another or simply with yourself there is a joy that comes with connecting, even if just for a moment, to another person or a part of our self we’ve neglected or forgotten.
Our stories, both the happy and the painful ones, are precious. So, whether listening to a story that someone else is telling or thinking about your own story, listen with an open heart and a gentle touch.
Sharing our stories connects us with others. Sharing our stories heals, even the places we didn’t realize were broken. So, ask your questions, listen deeply to the answers, and let the power of sharing and exploring stories work its deep magic in your life.