(1) Use “I” statements. Talk specifically about what you did.
Not: “We decided to visit Yosemite National Park, so we planned the trip, we bought the supplies, and we worked out the travel arrangements.”
But: “I decided to go when my best friend told me she was going. I oversaw the planning of the trip by making everyone responsible for a major area. I designed a checklist for those who bought the supplies, and I set deadlines for the person responsible for the travel arrangements.”
(2) Try to go back and “re-live” the moment.
Not: “It was a pretty crazy time.”
But: “I had all these kids to worry about. It was night and we were in the forest and the battery on my flashlight had died. I knew the kids were scared. So rather than try to herd them all in the dark and try to find the road, I had them sit them down and I showed them how to build a fire.”
(3) Don’t generalize.
Not: “I’m really good at fixing things.”
But: “I fixed our family’s computer, even though I’d never worked on a computer before.”
(4) Don’t analyze or “psychologize” about what you did.
Not: “I guess I always had to try harder because I was the middle child, and always felt inferior to my older sister.”
But: “I beat my older sister in basketball when I was only 9.”
(5) Make sure you describe what you found satisfying about the activity.
• The satisfaction may seem obvious to you, but don’t assume it’s obvious for your partner. They’re not you, so they can’t know what was satisfying about the activity until you tell them.
• What was satisfying to you—not to your parents, teachers, or others. What did you enjoy about the activity?
• Don’t just talk in terms of feelings. Try to put a description to what you enjoyed about the activity. Be as specific as possible.
Not: “I felt pretty good about it.”
But: “I enjoyed polishing the finish until it looked like a piece of glass. It was beautiful! I mean, it was really important to me to get it just so, just right. It had to have that perfect look.”
• Note that we encourage bragging in this exercise! Oftentimes a storyteller will hold back or edit what they really enjoyed about an activity for fear that their partner will somehow think less of them. Don’t worry about that! Go ahead and blurt out how you really felt about your accomplishment.
• “It was the best piece in the show. I mean, no one else’s work came close. I had the best piece in the whole dang show!”
• “I liked being in charge. I liked the fact that I was in control. I got to call the shots.”
• “Honestly, I liked the attention. No, I loved the attention! I loved the fact that all eyes were on me.”
• “Well, it was that I beat her. I beat her fair and square. She hated that. I don’t think she ever forgave me for knocking her out of contention for State. But I guess it was my match and my day to win, and I’d worked so hard to get to that point. Beating her felt incredible!”
• “To be honest, I liked the fact that it all depended on me. Our company’s fate was in my hands. Yeah, it was a lot of pressure, and maybe I was crazy for putting myself in that spot. But in a strange way, I loved knowing that if I didn’t come through, the whole deal would fall apart. And somehow I just knew, I just had the confidence that I could come through. And I did. And the deal happened. But the satisfaction was knowing it wouldn’t have happened without me.”