Why We Made 'Who We Are'

By A K

Why We Made 'Who We Are'

Vikram was incredulous. To be fair, Vikram is frequently incredulous. At some pretty credulous things, too - but in this case his incredulousness was justified.

"I exist because of a Jordanian exchange student that was looking for a party." He'd just been back to India and his parents had told him the story of how they first met. It is a complicated and wonderful affair involving printed party flyers, an English tutor, the aforementioned exchange student, and the early history of Bangalore as it grew into an urban center in the Sixties. He was surprised because even in their incredibly warm and talkative family, it seemed there were many stories that remained untold.

Laura grew up caddying for the local country club, lugging golf bags across greens for much wealthier, much older people. Making conversation with a rich cardiac surgeon while sweating through a Chicago summer isn't the easiest thing to do for a kid from the Southside. So she developed a process of asking a steady stream of questions - and found that people loved talking about themselves. More surprisingly, she found herself interested, and learning a ton from these people with very different life experiences. 

I have always loved stories. Writing them, reading them, hearing them told with a drink in one hand and a captivated audience in the other. First with my own large and ungainly family, and later with friends and colleagues around the world. The stories people tell say so much more about who they are than the narrow context in which you first meet them. 

Every life's story, however humdrum it may seem in the moment, has dramatic heft when looked at in full. We’ve all lost people. And with them, we’ve lost many of the stories that they had. No matter how often you talk to someone, especially someone from another generation, you often don’t get to the most amazing stories that are locked away in their memories. It’s all about asking the right question.

Which is why we made 'Who We Are'. We are generally reluctant to engage in the banal small-talk that typically precedes any conversational intimacy, and we revel in meaningful, character-defining conversations. So we have tried to create a tool that any group - however new to each other they may be - can use to quickly fall into an extraordinary conversation. Think of each card as a shortcut to the juiciest part of many deep, revealing interactions that may never happen otherwise.

We were initially quite precious about even calling 'Who We Are' a game, because there isn't really a way to win. When it works best, the set of cards creates a safe space for intimacy, sometimes between relative strangers, that allow serious thoughts to be voiced, and vulnerabilities to be exposed. Almost every time we've played, we've also ended up laughing so much we physically hurt.

We started The Conversation Lab to bring people together through empathy, humor and language, and this is our first attempt to make that happen. We hope you have many, many #extraordinaryconversations.



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