The biggest problem with stories, especially the ones we tell and listen to every day, is that they are too often… well… boring.
When someone begins sharing a story we begin listening with every intention of being a supportive friend, spouse, co-worker. And then, before long, we notice that we have tuned out. Our attention has left the building.
Wait, what happened ? I sometimes ask myself? I’m supposed to be a good listener! What happened, and what I think happens to most of us, is I got lost. In other words, I failed to find myself in the story. So I left the conversation and mentally wandered off in search of a story in which I was likely to appear.
Don’t look at me like that. You do it too!
Now think about someone you know whose stories are almost always interesting. What do you notice about the way they tell stories? Or the kind of stories they tell? Here’s the difference: The stories you listen to actually include you. Perhaps you can easily imagine yourself as a character in the story. Maybe the descriptions are so rich you can feel like you are fully present, witnessing the events being told. Somehow you are in the story. So you listen, because you want to know what will happen to you next. And if you find yourself tuning out, bring yourself back and ask yourself, Who am I in this story?
The answer may surprise you. Of course, this is all useful to the storyteller as well. When we tell stories we want to make sure there is a role for the listener in the story. If we insist on always being the star in the spotlight we might one day find ourselves alone in an empty theater.
Some things you can say to invite listeners into your story:
“Imagine you are me in this situation. What would you do?”
“Can you guess what happens next?”
“Listen from the point of view of (the other person in the story) and tell me what you see. I want to try to view this from another perspective.”
Now the listener has an active role and is less likely to wander off. And that’s a good thing. Because what’s the point of talking if no one is listening?