Opening Space for People to Tell Their Story

One of my goals in 2018 is to find a new town to live in as I travel around the east coast of Australia.  I’ll be covering a lot of territory with my daughter, driving from place to place and staying in Airbnb accomodation for eleven months.  Our plan is to stay in most places one week – occasionally a little less, and occasionally a little more.  I’ve been thinking about how we can learn about life in the towns we visit and figure out what it might be like living there.  One of the most important ways we can do this is to talk to local people and create the space for them to tell us their stories about their life in the town.

Thinking about how to elicit people’s stories reminded me of a day I spent with Laura Overton of Towards Maturity in early November 2017.  She was visiting Sydney, and I introduced her to two Learning and Development colleagues that I had worked with previously.  During our conversations with these two people I learned new things about them as a result of the way Laura opened up the space for them to tell their story.  She was genuinely curious and had no agenda other than to listen and find out how they thought and worked, and what influenced them.  I was so impressed that I made a video about this experience, and am sharing it on my Working Out Loud page for the first time today.




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  1. #1 by Marjie Kennedy on January 16, 2018 - 5:49 pm

    Some great insights in particular drawing on external research and models for inspiration to guide our work. Also, the value and importance of being curious and opening up space to actively listen. Thanks again Michelle for sharing your learnings.

    • #2 by Michelle Ockers on January 19, 2018 - 5:33 pm

      And thank you for watching and reading Marjie. It’s so interesting to hear how others think and work – this is what I most appreciated about the conversations that I was privy to during my day with Laura Overton.

  2. #3 by Bruno Winck on January 18, 2018 - 4:17 am

    It’s true.
    I’m always impressed how listening has such an effect on people I encounter.
    Listening which sounds like a passive activity may end up having a stronger impact that constant talking.
    By listening you are also more aware of the place where you travel. as soon as people notice that you care and have some awareness (acquired by earlier conversations), they are entrusted to share their concerns more freely.

    • #4 by Michelle Ockers on January 19, 2018 - 5:30 pm

      Of course listening is active and requires concentration and effort – not at all passive. It takes a lot of effort to open the space for others and really listen.

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