Everyone Has a Story
For most of us, our daily exchanges with casual acquaintances and strangers are pretty lame.
You know: “How are you?” “Fine.” “ Glad to hear it.” End of conversation.
Perfunctory. The words just come out.
Sometimes, we don’t want to be rude, but we try to avoid the conversation altogether. After all, it could be a colossal waste of your time. Or the person might be one of “those” people, who will tell total strangers about what hurts, what’s swollen, or what itches. Or you might trigger their inner Glenn Close and then you have to worry that you’ll go home to find your pet rabbit boiling on the stove.
And you might miss an opportunity to be enriched or inspired.
One of my Vistage members, Armando (a pseudonym), has a unique and refreshing outlook on the people he meets every day. Over the years, I’ve noticed that Armando works hard to connect with people that others seem to take pains to ignore. He’s always asking the waitress, the loading dock worker or the cab driver “one more question.” His employees roll their eyes and say, “That’s just Armando being Armando.”
He told me this attitude comes from several life-shaping events that took place when he was young and he shared two of them with me. He and his family emigrated from Cuba to Miami in 1959. They had been here several years when Armando and his father visited his grandfather in the hospital and an orderly came in to change the bed pan. The man shouted his father’s name, rushed over and gave his father a big hug. After a brief conversation, the orderly changed the bed pan and then left the room. Armando asked his father, “What was that all about?”
His father told him, “That was the doctor who delivered you in the hospital in Cuba.”
Several weeks later, Armando and his father entered a local 7-11, and the man behind the counter shouted and leaned over the counter to embrace Armando’s father. After his father bought him a Slurpee and they walked out of the store, Armando asked, “OK, who’s he?”
His father explained, “I knew him in Cuba. He was an admiral in the Cuban Navy.”
Armando said “Ever since then, I take nothing for granted. You never know. I learned that everyone has a story, and sometimes the story is amazing. ”
(Note: Armando and I are the same age. By the time he was ten years old, Armando and his family had endured the Castro revolution, uprooted themselves from their home in Cuba, and moved to Miami. It is hard for me to relate. By the time I was ten, the most traumatic event in my life was being forced to ride my sister’s hand-me-down bike in the neighborhood. A girl’s bike. As far as I was concerned in my insulated suburban existence, life was not fair. You’re right, I didn’t have a clue. As a Vistage chair, I am blessed to be able to meet with Armando twice a month and see the world through his eyes. It’s an amazing view.)
I wondered if there was a formula for getting people to share their stories and was fortunate to be introduced to Boaz Rauchwerger . Boaz is a speaker, trainer, and consultant, with boundless energy and enthusiasm. Boaz talks about the power of “The Five Questions” to connect with, and learn from, other people.
Boaz recommends that you put people at ease and start with a phrase like, “I’m just curious…” and then ask:
- Where are you from originally?
- (If they’re not from here) What brought you here? (And if they are from here) Have you lived here all your life?
- Do you have a family?
- What do you do?
- What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Once you get someone responding to these questions, be prepared to hear about their lives…and their dreams.
Everyone has a story. They can inspire and enlighten. They can lead to business opportunities or lifelong friendships. They can change your life.
I’m fascinated by personal stories. I’d love to hear stories you’ve been told by casual acquaintances and strangers that have impacted you in a powerful way.
Tell me your story (200 words or less). Here’s your chance to uplift or entertain us!