- Relational Wisdom | Ken Sande | Biblical Emotional Intelligence | Peacemaking | Institute Christian Conciliation | Reconciliation - https://rw360.org -

What Is Their Story?

Includes 90 “Getting-to-Know-Others” Questions!

Many of us waste golden opportunities to deepen relationships during family, church and business conversations.

How? We ask generic questions of one another that produce superficial information:

Polite, respectful questions like these are appropriate for the initial part of a conversation, but they do not enable us to get to know one another at an authentic, personal level.

If you want to really know people and build genuine relationships, develop the skill of asking questions that draw out other people’s stories and dreams.

Stories and dreams include facts, but more importantly, they are enriched with emotion. They enable us to truly understand and relate to others because they communicate at a heart level, at the level of feelings, fears, frustrations, joys, hopes and aspirations.

A Case on Point

This point is powerfully illustrated in the movie Amistad. It is based on the true story of a group of enslaved Africans who took over their ship in 1839 on the way to America and fought for their freedom in federal court. In a pivotal movie scene, one of their abolitionist allies, Theodore Joadson (played by Morgan Freeman), visits John Quincy Adams (played by Anthony Hopkins), to enlist his assistance. (If video screen does not appear below, click here [1].)

During their brief conversation, Adams describes the power of story with these words:

“When I was an attorney a long time ago, I realized after much trial and error, that in a courtroom, whoever tells the best story wins.”

Joadson doesn’t grasp the point, so Adams presses him with the question, “What is their story?” When Joadson answers, “They’re from Africa,” Adams gently rebukes him with these words:

“You have proven you know what they are. They’re Africans. Congratulations. What you don’t known, and as far as I can tell haven’t bothered in the least to discover, is who they are.”

As the movie goes on to show, “Who they are,” is not defined in terms of where they were born, how old they are, or what they did for a living, but rather in terms of their struggles and suffering, their hopes and their dreams, all of which are powerfully summarized in the main character’s passionate plea at the climax of their trial, “Give us free!”

The Bible Is a Story Filled with Stories

Do you want to connect with people in the days ahead? Really connect? Do you want to build relationships? Real relationships?

Then go beyond the superficial, generic questions and answers we all tend to use, and think of ways to connect with others at the level of story … just as God does throughout Scripture (e.g., Gen. 37-50; 1 Samuel 17; 2 Samuel 11-12).

Follow Jesus’ example and relate to people through both heart and mind, at the level of their fears and joys, their challenges and victories, their values and their dreams (see Luke 10:25-36; Luke 15:11-32; Luke 16:19-31; John 4:1-26).

Learning New Questions

This is a skill anyone can learn. Start a conversation with the typical polite questions. But as people relax, move on to questions that unpack stories and dreams.

With couples or close friends

With young children

With college students

To draw out dreams that may have been abandoned long ago

The possibilities are endless, but the goal is the same. Go for the story. Go for the dreams. Learn who people really are. Connect with and understand others at this level, and you’ll be well on your way to building real relationship.

>> Click here for 75 additional questions! << [2]

Developing Relational Wisdom

For more information on how you can improve your skills for understanding others, reducing conflict, and building enduring and authentic relationships, please visit our web site. You will find a list of scheduled speaking events [3]and information on how you could host a Developing Relational Wisdom Seminar [4] in your church, ministry, or business.

~ Ken Sande

Reflection Questions:

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© 2018 Ken Sande

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