Everyone Has a Story

How Empathy Can Make Your World Bigger

I recently had an encounter with a tree that taught me a lot about empathy and influence. You can read about it my post “Lessons From A Tree.”

Shortly after this incident I was reminded of how far I still have to go when it comes to taking my eyes off myself and showing care and attention to others.

Friend of the year award

A friend of ours at work went home early on Friday because she wasn’t feeling well. On Monday she was back in the office and when I came home that day Amy asked me how she was doing. I didn’t know… because I didn’t ask.

I could have kicked myself! Way to show empathy Josh! I guess I am not getting that friend of the year award I had my eyes on.

I was so worried about my own day that I forgot to spread some love, care, and empathy in my friends life.

Everyone has a story

Truett Cathy said that “everyone person has a story if only we bother to read it.” You can learn more about this principle in the book, It’s My Pleasure, by Dee Ann Turner.

Learning other people’s stories in small ways doesn’t just make their lives better it makes our lives bigger as well. Listening to someone’s day or difficulty is an investment in relationship that has a 100 fold return. The best way to do this is to ask questions.

3 Questions That Uncover People’s Stories:

How are you doing?

This is so basic that it is almost not even worth mentioning but it is something I forgot to ask a friend at work that sites right next to me everyday. When there is a change in someone’s routine or schedule don’t just assume they are ok. They probably are, but checking in on them when they are absent lets them know you care.

How can I make you look like a rock star?

Jon Acuff talks about this in his book Do Over. When he goes to speaking events he always asks, “A week after the event, what can I have done that makes you look like a rock star to the people who matter at your job?”  He says we should ask our coworkers, clients, and others the same question if we want to win at relationships. “What can I do to make you look like a rock star to the people that matter most to you?”

What can I do to make that easier for you?

When someone is expressing a concern or complaining it is easy to get negative with them but that never helps anyone. The better thing to do is to invest in the relationship by asking, “What can I do to make that easier for you?” You not only turn a negative into a positive but also add value to the relationship.


Jon Acuff says that when we take time to know someone’s story we “make 2-D people 3-D.” What if this is the key to getting along with the difficult people in your life? What if you just need to make a 2-D person 3-D in order to have more influence with them? Asking questions, and reading people’s story, doesn’t just make your world bigger it makes our world better.

What stories are right in front of you that have yet to read? How can you take a step to make a 2-D person in your life a 3-D person with a story?

Here are a couple of books that have helped me grow in empathy and making others bigger:

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