“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.” That famous line by Humphrey Bogart from the move Casablanca can be how every new relationship starts for you using four simple words. Whether you’re interviewing a job candidate, meeting your new neighbor or getting to know a customer, asking someone to “Tell Me Your Story” accelerates the building of your relationship with that person. It’s like going from zero to sixty in a new relationship.
Now when I ask the person to tell me their story the most common response is ‘where should I start’? My response is to have them start by telling me where they were born and we are off and running. Hearing someone’s story can be a moving experience. Recently, I was getting to know a very talented team member of a client organization and she told me her story. The day she was born in China her father immigrated to the United States. A year later her mom joined her father in the United States and she was raised by her grandparents for the next five years. At the age of 6 she flew to the United States to meet her waiting parents at the airport. I was moved by the story as I imagined this little girl leaving her grandparents who was all she knew, and taking a long flight to meet her parents in a new world for essentially the first time. Just think about that.
After hearing her story I felt like I have known her for years. The number one benefit of hearing someone’s story is that you are able to build a deeper and more effective relationship in a much shorter period of time. Understanding how the challenges and accomplishments in their life have shaped them helps you get to know that person to their core. You will almost always find something that you have in common during the course of their story. You also better understand their perspective and are able to provide them more grace on their journey. Understanding their journey may also provide you the information to help them build on that story. That could mean just listening or sharing what you have learned from your experiences.
Now, remember that telling your story should go both ways. Once the person is done telling you their story, you should be prepared to tell your own. I actually have a story in my head that takes me about two minutes to tell. I may add and delete certain parts of the story based on the situation but for the most part the key moments of my story remain the same. Your story should include your path to this point but it should also include your thoughts on your future.
I hear 10 to 15 personal stories a week and I am amazed at the journey of many of them to this point and how blessed I am to be able to get to know them. What I have learned about myself and my life as I hear these stories creates unbelievable growth in my own story. It is a simple but powerful approach to build deeper and more effective relationships in all areas of your life.
So next time you meet a new person take the first step in beginning a beautiful relationship by asking them to “Tell Me Your Story.” Those Who Plan – PROFIT!
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