The Gift of Storytelling offers both the one telling the story and the one listening the glorious opportunity to grow. While most of us have similar life experiences, no two people have complete understanding of precisely how a story will be interpreted by the another person. Very much like watching a debate, those in attendance may literally hear the same words and have a completely different perspective of what was said. The skill needed to expand our understanding is to simply listen, without adding our own interpretation as they are telling the story. In most cases, this is quite a challenge since it is almost instinctive to begin interpreting what the person is saying and even more, to begin "painting a picture" of their words. The problem begins when we fill in the rest of the story while the storyteller is still speaking.
Seeking to understand someone requires active listening rather than active head chatter. To develop active listening, try telling the "personal interpreter" in your head his/her's job is simply to remember the details of the story. And, be kind to that personal interpreter, because most of the time it merely wants to identify with the speaker in order to assist the one speaking with whatever story they are sharing. Unfortunately, often the personal interpreter wants to tell their own story; either to shift the focus to them, or to their story they may feel has more relevance or is more important. Of course, the later does little to understand another person; rather, it creates a separation and rarely offers the opportunity to build a meaningful relationship.
As we move through the current situations before us, now would be the perfect time to practice really listening; to really hear what emotions, concerns, frustrations, excitement, or funny situation someone is sharing. When the person is done with their story, reflect back to them what you heard. Doing this provides the speaker the opportunity to clarify whatever you heard that was different than they intended.
This is how we will truly begin to understand others, and ourselves. While we may be very much a like, we still have our own sacred way of viewing life. What an enriching opportunity to learn a new perspective that may deepen our understanding of another human being, who, like each of us, wants to be seen, loved and valued. We really are more alike than we are different, and with respect and trust, relationships can be expanded into a new paradigm that just might change the world!
Vicky Kelm Williams
I find people absolutely fascinating!