Stupid Questions

From Episode 3 of the weekly Storyteller Tactics episodes

Each week we release an episode containing two tactics from the up and coming Storyteller Tactics card deck.

Each episode shows you how our characters use the power of story to overcome challenges (and how they also help us write their narratives!)

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What is the Stupid Questions story tactic?

“In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.” - Shunryu Suzuki

When you're talking to a user or an expert, don't ask super-detailed questions to show how clever you are. The question is not about you - it's about them. Try a stupid question instead. Adopt a beginner's mind. You'd be amazed how much people tell you if you swallow your pride and say “Sorry, I don't really understand.”

ℹ️ Remember: story is everywhere.

When you tell stories, people pay attention, and most importantly - stories are never forgotten. 

The opportunities for using Storyteller Tactics in your work are endless. From emails, pitches, job interviews, or show and tells.

There's no right or wrong way to use them. Experiment and play. You'll find what works best for you.

How to use the Stupid Questions tactic

Remember, everyone is an expert in the subject of their own life. Your job is to get them to share that expertise. Stupid questions are much more revealing than clever ones.

  • Sorry, I don't understand...
  • Take me through it from the start
  • How would you explain this to an outsider/beginner?
  • Can you show me?
  • Can you give me an example?

Try these ways of getting people to tell you their story:

  1. Talk among friends. Get a group together and let them talk to each other as much as they talk to you. Ask occasional questions and play the naive beginner who needs everything explaining.

  2. Ask indirect questions about "people like you". Which question would make you feel defensive: "Why did you do that?" or "Why do you think people like you do that?" or "Why do people round here do that?" The added layer of "people like me" allows someone to express tricky opinions without actually owning them.

  3. Ask them to imagine a world without the thing you're discussing. Eg; I'm interviewing people who rely on food-banks for research about poverty. Asking why they use a food-bank gets predictable answers. So instead I ask "What would you do if the food-bank wasn't here?"

  4. Try a metaphorical question: "If this [product or service] was a car, what sort of car would it be?" Repeat for party, food, music, person etc. It's a weird question, but the answers can be very interesting.

Tip: look out for gaps between the story someone tells you and the way they act. 



🤔 Confused? Enlightened?

Let us know! We are still developing Storyteller Tactics. Drop us an email with your feedback. We reply to every single one.

- Charles & Steve.