Six-Word Stories

Six-Word Stories

Steve Polo



Dear Friends and Colleagues:

I was in a business roundtable the other day when the moderator suggested that in order to get to know one another better - and potentially set the stage for a more meaningful connection - that we tell a story about ourselves…

I’m not sure what others were feeling, but I was at a loss to decide which story I should tell about myself….or if I even wanted to.

Then, to add to the challenge, the moderator suggested that we take fifteen minutes and write down as many six-word stories about ourselves as we could. Six. Word. Stories.

And to add more pressure, his example was the famous story attributed to Ernest Hemmingway:  “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

But what happened next was extraordinary. For each of us in the group, the stories seemed to materialize immediately. Some people in the group wrote six or seven stories in fifteen minutes! Here are some examples:

My father retired; I gained purpose.

My third grade in the hall.

Fighting is wrong; proud of you.

Too bad you’re not Miles Davis.

Once each of us had written our story we were asked to read our list. The group decided which story they wanted to hear, and as we shared our stories, each of us came away with a deeper and more personal connection with the others. First, we shared an experience, and second, we shared a part of ourselves. So much more enriching (and far more interesting) than the answer to the question: ‘So, what do you do at company X?’

As it turns out, there is somewhat of a big movement around six-word stories. Originally called flash fiction, it gave rise to the idea behind Six-Word Memoirs, as well as a series of books and an online magazine, Smith Magazine, by Larry Smith.

If you’re not familiar with this phenomenon, it’s worth trying with your team, your partners, your board, or even your friends or family. As we continue to return to offices, events, and social engagements (especially with the holidays coming up!), the six-word story process can be used as an out-of-the-box way to foster deeper relationships with the people around us. You’ll be surprised at the result! (I couldn’t resist a story of the future!)

I guess this blog post could have been:  Heard some stories, never the same.

I would have saved you six minutes, maybe.  But, it’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!


Latest Articles