Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you ever been part of a group conversation that goes in a million different directions?

Do you ever feel as if people are all trying to talk over each other at the same time in English?

Today we are going to talk about what we’re going to call the story sandwich!

This is an idea that really helps you to break down how a group conversation can and should go.

Once you can identify this, then you can put this to work in your own conversations and really take an active role in things.

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A Little Background

In an episode of Coffee and Conversations, we were sharing holiday memories.

This puts you into a frame of mind where you can picture everyone sitting around a table chatting and catching up.

When a bunch of people are sitting together and telling stories, you will often find that people tend to talk over one another.

You might think that it will go as one person talking, and then another person goes, and so on–but is that how conversations in a group setting go?

No, not a chance!

You HAVE to comment on each story!

You can’t just say ok great and move on, because that would feel impersonal.

So people end up jumping in and sharing, and then conversations can head in a million different directions.

It can help if you are aware of this and think it through in advance, as group conversations can be very rewarding but also a bit chaotic at times.

Breaking It Down

We touched on the idea of a story sandwich on the show, but let’s take this a step further.

A story sandwich makes perfect sense, as it goes Story–Commentary–Story.

This is a thoughtful approach for how it can and should go, and it’s definitely valuable to think through in advance.

Here’s what you want to listen for in this situation, as it can prove to be quite helpful.

  1. What is said to move into the meat of the commentary? You want to look for cues and ways to transition. This can be something that comes naturally in time, but for now you want to really pay close attention to this.

2. What is the new topic for the meat in the story sandwich? What basically happens? This is where things start to take shape, and this is really the heart of the issue as well. You want to consider what the true story is and what you are trying to get to at the core.

3. How do we move to the next story? Again this is all about transitions and what you can do to move things along. It will become a natural transition, but pay close attention as you are getting used to this.

Above all–Listen! This sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed at how few people forget this simple concept and it can really cause issues.

If you break things down in this way, it can make group conversations a lot easier.

A Sort of Working Roleplay

We’re going to take an excerpt out of Conversations and Coffee to demonstrate how this can work.

This is from episode 35, and it’s focused on holidays and starts around 11:25 if you are going to listen in.

Aubrey:. “Like, there were spider nests in it or something that came out and were just everywhere in the house.”

Lindsay: “Ohh my gosh.”

Aubrey: “It was terrible.”

Jessica: “Ohh God, that’s terrible.”

Aubrey: “But very memorable, very memorable.”

Jessica: “That sounds like something from a movie, from, like, National Lampoon’s Christmas.”

Michelle: “Yes, ohh my gosh, best movie.”

Lindsay: “Love that movie, I love that movie so much.”

Michelle: “We always talked about that from my memory, yeah (yes).”

Aubrey: “That’s so funny.”

Jessica: “I need to add that to our Christmas movie list.”

Aubrey: “Yes, for sure.”

Jessica: “We added Die Hard last year. Every year we’re adding, like, new Christmas movies. Scrooge is my favorite, though.”

Michelle: “I watch, I watch Christmas Vacation National with Chevy Chase every year.”

Jessica: “Yes, love it.”

Lindsay: “Yes.”

Aubrey: ” The one I watch every year is Scrooge with Albert Finney. Have you guys seen that one?”

Jessica: “Which one?”

Aubrey: “It’s a musical. Scrooge with Albert Finney? He was Daddy Warbucks in the original Annie. It’s British, they all have these adorable British accents and it’s a musical, awesome music.”

Lindsay: “Very cool.”

Aubrey: “It’s so good.”

Jessica: Cute.

Aubrey: “It’s my favorite, you’ll have to check it.”

Jessica: “I’ll add that to the list also.”

Lindsay: “Got to keep that in mind the next time the holidays come around.”

Aubrey: “Yes.”

Jessica: “So, my special memory is Thanksgiving a few years ago.”

So you can start to see how this concept works, and how it truly is like a conversation sandwich.

Talking About This Concept At Work

Let’s take a look at this so that you can understand how this works and how each part came together.

  1. How did we move to the meat? We all started saying it was terrible, the story Aubrey told- then Jessica related it to a movie- “that sounds like something from a movie…” – that’s a great way to comment on something- to relate it to something larger in pop culture, something you heard somewhere, etc. You could see the natural transitions taking place, and it was seamless and everyone was involved.

2. New topic? Jessica brought up the movie, so we all discussed the movie and really went on a tangent on holiday movies- Christmas Vacation, Scrooge, etc. We talked about wanting to watch other movies, adding movies to a list, etc. This happened quite naturally and then everyone jumped in on discussing this topic.

3. How did we move to the next one? It felt like the conversation naturally seemed like it was ending about movies- there was an arc- everyone got excited about movies, then Aubrey introduced a new one, then we all said things like “very cool” “cute” “I’ll add that to the list”- etc. It started to feel like the movie talk was done, so Jessica jumped in and felt it was the right time to share hers = she said “So, my special memory is Thanksgiving a few years ago. So it worked well, and everyone participated, and it flowed really well which is what you want out of group conversations.

We can do a follow up on this, as this is such an important topic that comes up very often.

Then you will begin to see it take shape and happen right in front of you in your conversations.


Basically, when you are listening to a conversation and a lot of people are sharing stories, don’t just ignore the meat of the story sandwich.

There is SO much room for connection in that moment, and you want to recognize that and participate in it fully.

You will find great opportunities for commenting, laughing, and finding new things in common.

This is all essential, and they are conversational skills that you will use always.

Try listening for this, and adding your own meat (or veggies or pb!) to the story sandwich today.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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