Tips for Storytelling: How to Get Grandma to Talk

Tips for Storytelling: How to Get Grandma to Talk

What do you do when Grandma doesn’t want to talk? She’s not interested and doesn’t think her story is important. After all, who’ll want to hear it, she asks. She’s dragging her feet and doesn’t think anyone will get anything out of her story.

And it doesn’t have to be just Grandma. It could be Mom, Uncle Joe, Grandpa, or anyone else. How do you get a story out of a family member who isn’t having it? You need some tips for storytelling in your back pocket to get these reluctant loved ones to spill.

Sometimes, There’s a Real Reason Grandma Won’t Talk

First, a thought. You may be asking a person to talk who has a real reason not to share certain things. You need to respect that and give her that space. Allow her to have her boundaries. Allow her to say, “No, thank you, I’d rather not talk about that.” If, instead, the reluctance stems from a feeling that sharing isn’t worth taking the time, you can be ready with these tips for storytelling.

Get her to talk about something that may be more surface level to start. Then, once she’s comfortable, she’ll be able to talk about deeper memories. And through that sharing, you’ll begin to see your connection change, and the conversation will hopefully move in the direction you were hoping for,  from the beginning.

Tips for Storytelling: Lead with Laughter

If Grandma doesn’t want to talk, one of the first things you can do is get her laughing. When we make people laugh, the tension immediately lifts. Laughter creates a connection and makes us feel better. After the laughter starts, you can ease into the questions you want to ask.

But how do you get Grandma laughing? Use the Legacy Hunt Kids’ Pack as a reference. It has some really fun low-impact prompts such as, “What was an embarrassing nickname you had?” That launches into a full conversation about who gave her the nickname, why, and how she felt about it then versus now.

Another of the best tips for storytelling is to ask her about playing tricks on her siblings, if she has them. Or if they played tricks on her. That could get her laughing and bring up some happy memories.

Share Yourself

As you’re asking surface questions and focusing on lighthearted topics, maybe you can share something about yourself. After all, the more you open up and share, the more likely Grandma will be to share as well.

When you’re able to give a little of yourself, it opens the door for the other person to feel confident about giving more back.

Make It Simple

One of the most important tips for storytelling is to keep it simple. Don’t expect to have an hour-long conversation. You can have a simple talk over coffee, tea, or lunch. It could be when you go to the park with your kids and you and your grandmother sit on the bench together while the kids play. What a great time to talk about her childhood! You don’t have to make an appointment to get Grandma to talk; you just need to create an opportunity and listen.

Delve Deeper as the Conversation Flows

By the time you’ve gotten Grandma laughing a little bit and kept it simple, you’ll be able to ease into a new conversation with tips for storytelling. That will make the next part of the conversation a little more impactful, more emotional. You might be able to ask harder questions, and because you’ve laid the groundwork and know her, you’ll know a bit about her background.

You’ll know enough to ask starter questions about her partner, best friend, perhaps moving from one country to another, and so on. These aren’t the questions you’ll ask initially, but they’ll come later. That’s part of easing into the questions you really want to know. Give her a chance to answer some fun questions first and the harder answers will come with time.

Need some additional support? You can book time with me here and we can workshop it 💞

Happy Writing,
Gael, the Legacy Lady


  1. […] she views the world is beautiful and inspiring to me. When I see her paintings I feel as if she is telling me a story with every piece. Ellen graciously takes her work a step further and offers the story behind each […]

  2. […] Working with someone who is reluctant to speak about themselves can be especially challenging when you’re trying to record family memories. Though sometimes there is real boundary reasons for not speaking, most of the time, we just need a little nudge in the right direction to open up. I’ve laid out a strategy to get those more reserved family members to open up. […]

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