Listening to a professional storyteller is a pleasure, but most of the storytellers in our lives are not professional. What do you do when someone you love seems to be going on and on with seemingly random and pointless stories? Do you tune them out or cut them off?
The key is to listen for the common thread that links the stories together. If you listen to what people say in a conversation, they will subconsciously tell you stories that all have one theme.
Decipher what the theme is and you will learn something about that person that even they may not know.
The theory goes that the closer the story is to the present, the deeper they are feeling the emotion attached to it.
So the next time you find yourself on the verge of zoning out while in a conversation, try listening with love to find the story themes.
And in your own stories, whether they are in a professional setting, with friends, or with family, be sure you have clear themes so that you are not making your audience work harder than they need to.
For more ideas on how you can listen with love, check out Listening & Caring Skills by John Savage
“There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.”
― G.K. Chesterton
Real listening is a skill that takes practice. Developing the habit of listening can improve your relationships, your careers, and even your next experience at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival.
Alan Alda once said, “Listening is being able to be changed by the other person.”
So, how do we practice listening? How do we move beyond simply hearing something? Real listening is about focus and concentration. Eudory Welty, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Optimist’s Daughter explains, “Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. Listening for them is something more acute than listening to them. I suppose it’s an early form of participation in what goes on. Listening children know stories are there. When their elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one to come out, like a mouse from its hole.”
We have a wealth of resources that can help us develop the skill of listening. Here is a list of some of the best that the internet has to offer.
True stories told by ordinary people:
This American Life – This award-winning radio program has one of the most popular podcasts on the internet. There is a theme to each episode and a variety of stories on that theme. Recommended stories- The Super or Switched at Birth.
Serial– A podcast spin-off of This American Life which debuted in October of 2014. Serial tells one story- a true story- over the course of an entire season. The first season is a story about the disappearance of a popular high school senior.
The Moth – “True Stories Told Live.” The live broadcasts originated in New York City but have become popular throughout the country. These are real people telling stories of ordinary life, with extraordinary skill. There is some explicit language in some stories. Recommended story- Fathers.
Story Corps –StoryCorps mission is to collect a vast archive of stories for future generations, to teach the value of listening and that every story matters. Recommended story- Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel, a mother speaking to the young man who murdered her only child.
Snap Judgment – If you love music you might like this new show from NPR which melds music with stories. Recommended story- Mystery Man.
Radiolab– Stories about science, technology, and the human experience. Recommended story- Space.
Selected Shorts – This weekly radio broadcast, one of my personal favorites, pairs great literary short stories with fine actors. You can’t go wrong with any of their selections so find the latest free podcast here.
Mercury Theater on the Air – Orson Welles and John Houseman started this radio theater. Their notorious broadcast The War of the Worlds allegedly caused mass panic. Try Three Short Stories: I’m a Fool, The Open Window, and My Little Boy
The Apple Seed – You’ll find many of your favorite tellers from The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival here. This BYU Radio broadcast offers pure contemporary storytelling at its finest. Recommended story- From Sea to Shining Sea.
Wiretap – This unique broadcast comes to us from CBC Radio One. Jonathan Goldstein brings us stories that are comedic, absurd, unexpected, and wholly engaging. It’s unlike anything I have heard before. Recommended story – Help Me, Doctor, Kafka’s Gregor Samsa seeks professional psychiatric help from Dr. Seuss.
CBS Radio Mystery Theater – I loved listening to this as a young girl when my family would take long car trips.I suspect that my dad drove around a few extra blocks as we hung on to hear the door swing shut just after the host, E.G. Marshall said, “Until next time… pleasant dreams.” Recommended story- Resident Killer.
Radio programs and podcast episodes aren’t the only way to listen to great audio recordings. Your local library has audiobooks available, often for no cost to download. Recommended story- Harry Potter series narrated by Jim Dale, one of the best in the business.
What are your favorite sources for audio stories? Let us know.