I am preparing some questions tonight for an exercise I am running, and I rediscovered this elegant and simple process for constructing questions that elicit stories, courtesy of the Ultimate Guide to Anecdote Circles.
Build the question.
People remember events whenÂ they can picture an image remindingÂ them of aÂ specific situation. Combine this idea with the suggestion of adding emotion and you have the two building blocks to create good questions.
First start with an image-building phrase:
- â€œThink about…â€
For example, â€Think about a time when you were given advice by your manager.â€
Add an additional sentence or two to enhance the image:
â€œThis might have been done formally in the office or perhaps outside the formal environment.â€
Then add the open question with the emotive words:
â€œWhen have you been annoyed, ecstatic or perhaps just surprised by what you were told?â€
Notice there is a spectrum of emotions, which increases the chances of a memory being triggered by the question.
Simply askingÂ people to tell stories rarely results in stories being told. In factÂ people are often confused when you ask for stories, thinkingÂ they might have to concoct an event or perhaps demonstrate Hemingway-level storytelling. Consequently, we suggest you avoid the term â€˜storyâ€™ and use terms like: examples, illustrations, experiences.
So simple and results in great questions.