Everyone is in the business of telling stories. And we’re all doing it with a certain outcome in mind, Brands tell stories to create awareness and loyalty. Charities tell stories to get backers who will further the cause. Individuals tell stories to win friends, get jobs and so on. We tell stories with a goal. And we gauge our storytelling ability according to our ability to meet those goals.
We’re all on the lookout for tools and resources that can make us better storytellers. That’s because no one wants our storytelling efforts to go in vain. Storytelling is a lot of work. So we want to make sure that our efforts aren’t wasted.
One tool, however, that many people often forget to use in storytelling is intentional and deliberate listening. We think that storytelling is all about us speaking to people. But storytelling starts with an intention to listen intently to what has to be told first. Listening is a skill that we can all take advantage of and benefit from if we become masters at it. With it, we can become extremely effective storytellers.
Is listening easy? Simple yes, but never easy. A lot of people can hear and observe, but not everyone listens. So what does it take to listen effectively? Here are three effective ways to become a better listener, and in turn become a great storyteller.
Research like crazy
Not everyone gets excited about research. But it doesn’t mean it’s not necessary. And the wonderful thing about our day and age is that research isn’t as hard as it once was. Once in the past, you needed to go to a library to learn more about a subject, person or idea. That’s no longer required today. All you need to do is go to Google and start searching for information.
Research is highly valuable in storytelling and necessary if we want to be good listeners. We need to do our homework right and make sure that we’ve overturned every stone before starting to even craft our storyline.
Find the root
Many of the information that we get is surface truths, meaning that they’re details to a story that people have already heard before. Great listening is marked by the ability to see a fresh and new perspective which can often be found at the root of the story.
A great example of this would be Stillmotion’s short film for the Super Bowl, where they took a different turn and told the story of Jane Hesler, a woman who had worked most of her life creating Wilson footballs. It was a fresh take to a topic that had every conceivable rock turned in the past.
Avoid confirmation bias
Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret data and ideas in a way that confirms preexisting conclusions. It’s dangerous business when you’re trying to tell a prejudice-free story. When listening, we need to set all bias aside and allow other perspectives to come out.
The world around us is filled with circumstances that tend to be a whole lot bigger than our own perspectives can contain. So keeping an open mind can help us to listen better to the events, people, and places that surround us.