Finding stories

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —September 8, 2008
Filed in Business storytelling

Tell stories to hear stories

Listen to stories to remember your stories

Mark and I penned these observations while developing our course on storytelling. The first one, “tell stories to hear stories,” reminds us that a good way to find stories is to tell some yourself. Here’s an example. When I see my teenage daughter after school I would often ask how her day went, whether anything interesting happened at school, and the standard response is often monosyllabic: yep, nup. In fact the more questions I’d ask the shorter the answers. So I changed tack and rather than ask questions I simply recounted something that happened in my day. I would launch into something like, “I met a bearded lady today. This morning I drove down to Fitzroy to run an anecdote circle for …” and immediately my daughter would respond with an encounter from her day. A conversation starts and it’s delightful.

Our second reminder is the flip-side to the first. If you want to remember your own stories go listen to other people’s stories and then don’t forget to jot your anecdotes down. Many of our stories are ephemeral, flooding our memory banks when the conditions are right and evaporating just as quickly. Often a story will come to mind and you will have no idea why you would ever retell it but make a note anyway. Just being aware of our stories is an important first step in the effective application of business narrative.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:


  1. Kathleen Hogan says:

    I also like this idea for getting conversations going between tired, overworked spouses.

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