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How To Start

How do you prepare for a Heartfelt Word?

For some people, there’s no trick to this at all: they simply sit down and start talking. For others, establishing the right time, the right mood, the right setting – all can be important. Keep the conversation relaxed, natural and comfortable.  And keep the following suggestions in mind.

LISTEN. AND BE OPEN.

Everyone has a story. What they don’t always have is an attentive and appreciative audience. So you be one. Make yourself available, encourage them to talk, and take time to listen with genuine interest – these are probably the only “rules” you really need to follow. Simply open up this way, get them talking, then keep the conversation flowing with an open-ended question or one of these other tips.

  • If you need an “entry point”: have a list of topics you want to know about…or that you know will get them going. Then just start talking. Here are some suggestions.
  • If you have a “memory trigger” available: use it! Ask about people in a photo – or the occasion when it was taken. Hand them knick-knacks, jewelry, something physical that may bring memories flooding back.
  • If the conversation doesn’t go as you planned: enjoy it anyway. There’s a good chance your talk will wander far afield, but that’s fine. Wherever it leads, you’ll wind up with great memories and stories.
  • If they tend to give one-word answers: draw them out with questions that require a more narrative response: “Tell me about…,” “Describe the time…,” or “What did it feel like when…” Use follow-up questions to keep details flowing.
  • If a subject makes them uncomfortable: don’t press the issue…respect their wishes, change the topic and move on. Maybe they’re honoring a promise to keep a matter private. Or maybe they’ll be willing to revisit the topic later, on their terms and timetable.
  • If they bring up something that makes you uncomfortable: just go with it, if you can. This may be something they’ve never discussed and that’s important for them to share. So don’t pass judgment. Just listen carefully with an open mind and open heart.

BE READY TO SHARE.

Make each talk a real dialogue – not just an interview. Actually participate. And after all, there’s plenty you can talk about – such as:

  • Your gratitude for times when they did special things for you: taught you to drive, how to cook, took you on trips, gave you special birthday presents, and on and on.
  • Your memories of times you’ve shared – simple, serious, funny, heartwarming.
  • How they seemed to you as you were growing up – what you admired, what you were curious about.
  • How they changed your life. If their presence in your life mattered to you, that fact will matter a great deal to them, especially if you tell them frankly and honestly.

PRESERVE THE WORD.

You’re taking the time to have a Heartfelt Word – and, we hope, one of several in which you can openly talk about all kinds of topics. You’ll want to enjoy these “new memories” later, by yourself. And perhaps start an archive of family history to share with your kids or other relatives. So take time to actually document memories and stories, in whatever way feels best to you and seems least intrusive to your loved one:

  • Take notes. Use our free booklet as a simple journal or start a separate notebook to expand on each topic.
  • Actually record the conversation, with audio and/or video – whatever you’re most comfortable using.
  • Listen carefully and attentively. If a recorder is picking up what you both say, you can concentrate on what’s being said, respond or ask follow-up questions that can reveal even more details.
  • Don’t worry about “getting it all down perfectly.” You can always polish things later: expand handwritten scribbles or edit audio and video. In the moment, it’s more important to truly connect with the person you want to get closer to.
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