3 Things on Story-Listening I (We?) Don’t Want to Hear

We are tinkering at Rebel with the idea of including more training and resources for Story Listening along with Storytelling.  In many ways, this is a continuation of my own efforts to be a better listener for the sake of my friends, or the wider world, or the stories I tell. I absolutely believe that better Listening is what the world needs right now. It might not be the sexiest idea on the table but if we’re going to make it through this whole “being human” thing together, Listening seems key.

I’ve been thinking and researching Listening for a while now and there are still a few things I find hard to hear. Every time I dig into what it really means to listen, whether it’s to other people, other artists, other industries, or opposing ideas, I end up stuck with some of my own bad habits.

By way of confession, here are three things I need to hear over and over again about what it means to Listen as an artist, employee, and human:

-I/We should listen widely.

If Netflix algorithms are to be trusted, my favorite genre often involves “Independent Female Leads.” My guess is that many of us choose to listen to real and imagined stories where the heroes are people most like us.  There are probably good reasons for that: We’re looking for ideas about how to live or triumph.  But there are also really great reasons to listen to stories, real or imagined, with leads who are different from us.  Listening widely helps us to see the world as other people see it and to work on our empathy muscles.

-I/We should listen for what matters to the people talking/creating/storytelling before I/we listen for what matters to me/us.

It takes a lot to convince most of us that the world doesn’t revolve around us.  Even when we listen to other stories, we are quick to make them about us. They may eventually be about us, but they can’t start there.  If I’m listening to a friend across the table, or a co-worker over coffee, or watching a movie, it’s important for my first responses to be about the teller and not about me.  I might think reflecting on my own experience is a way of connecting, but often it’s just a way of skipping over other people and missing what they’re offering of themselves in the story.

-I/We should consider Listening as a crucial companion to action.

Listening can be a compassionate, important, productive act. But listening alone can’t match a life that is informed by the ongoing habit of listening. Listening ought to translate into greater kindness, creativity, and engagement.  In the same way, any activism or art we attempt ought to come after we have paid good attention to other people’s stories.

Rebel Pilgrim is a creative agency based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Rebel Pilgrim believes that story is the only way to spark change and create excitement for any business or product. Start converting your uninterested crowds into engaged clients using the power of storytelling.