Thursday, April 24, 2014

So what's your story?

Watch this fascinating clip that provides an overview of "how people get to know each other" when they first meet. This was based on research and surveys in multiple states from Hawaii to Maryland. Most of the "opening lines" involve some form of "where do you live" or some sort of question designed to place you in a category and give a wealth of quick information about who you are. In the accompanying article, "What We Mean When We Say Hello" (The Atlantic, Feb. 16, 2014) the author states that after we learn someone's name we commonly move on to , "...some version of “Where do you live?” But as you describe, you are really after an answer offering some social-economic-cultural hints about a person’s life."

Asking someone where they live, where they came from or what they do can be uncomfortable for some people because it forces them to offer a prescribed answer that involves the listeners own personal evaluative rubric.  In the video clip, one man suggests a better question, one that leaves the communication open to the person's preferences for an answer.  He asks, "So, what's your story?"  With that question you can decide what you want to share about yourself.  If you grew up in circumstances you'd rather not discuss with a relative stranger, you could reframe your answer and tell about the beautiful quilts you create, the teaching career you love or your wonderful children.  I think this question is also inherently more interesting because really I'd rather hear about what someone cares about and the stories that have shaped them than where they live or who their parents are. I plan to try out some version of this prompt the next time I meet someone and see what happens.  It could be that they will be so taken aback by the unusual tack that they'll just start to tell me where they live and how many children they have....  Interesting how we're socialized to follow dialogue and cultural conventions.   And, if you're interested in replying - I'd love to know - "What's your story?"

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