Before you start
Before you become a Story Listener, we suggest you try being a Story Teller. It can be fun and it will help you understand the process. You can also experience first-hand what it is like to share your own personal life stories and make you more empathetic with the Story Teller.
Make sure you allow plenty of time to get to know the Story Teller and enjoy the process of getting to know each other and building trust.
Breaking the ice
Start your first story telling session by asking why the Story Teller is participating in the Sharing Stories project and understanding their expectations. Discuss the different ways to record stories and explore what works best for the Story Teller.
To break the ice we suggest you also share something about yourself, as people are likely to share more about themselves if the conversation is interactive. A ‘question and answer’ conversation can feel like an interview and make the conversation more superficial. Let your curiosity run wild and be genuinely interested.
During your conversations, keep an eye out for the “sparkling moments” in a story. These are the memories that make the Story Teller light up. Pay close attention to these because they can help explore special stories.
Use open questions
Try to ask open questions and avoid leading questions. Open questions bring out more from the Story Teller. Also try not to fill in silences. Be aware that the journey is as important as the end result.
You can use images and other materials to encourage story telling and help the Story Teller to remember details. You can also involve friends and family members in the storytelling sessions but make sure you only do it when appropriate and always with the permission of the Story Teller. Friends and family members could be encouraged to provide photos or their own personal memories of the story. Be aware that some Story Tellers may hold back and share less if friends or family members attend the storytelling session. Always discuss their preferences before the actual session to avoid upset.
During the session explore the Story Teller’s stories together. Ask how these life experiences affected them, whether the stories have deeper meaning to them, and what was happening in their lives when the stories took place.
Also pay attention to the language and words that you use. Some words may have negative connotations. For example, avoid using ‘lonely’ and focus instead on ‘experiencing loneliness’. Lonely is a label or identification (fixed/no change), whereas loneliness is a temporary feeling or emotion (and possible to change).