I'm trying to be a better listener. Instead of talking more, I'm trying to ask, "Tell me more." Then I'm trying to take in what I hear.
Sometimes I don't understand exactly what someone means. I used to guess. I'd try to fill in the cracks of my comprehension by offering versions of what I thought they meant. Usually I was wrong. Now I just say, "Tell me more."
Sometimes someone says something amazing. I realize they don't always understand the full awesomeness of what they've said. I coax it forth, like a professor once did for me in class. "Tell me more." We surprise ourselves, not knowing we thought it until we heard ourselves say it.
Sometimes someone is sharing a "home truth" with me, constructive criticism that is hard to hear, because it feels true. I want to be defensive, to rise up against it, to bounce back the blame. Instead I try to be grateful for the honesty, for the deeper connection. Tell me more, even if I flinch.
Sometimes someone shares a story, shyly. A slice of life is on offer. Nobody has the patience for this sort of thing anymore. Telling your life story is a cliche term for boring someone. It means to hurry up and get on with it, the prosaic transaction, the conversation that will be forgotten almost instantaneously. We don't have time for a story that lasts more than a minute, a story that lingers in the memory. I've started to realize what a gift this kind of story can be. If you want to tell me, I want to hear it. Please, please, tell me more.
Artful listening can help shape a story. Details reveal their salience. Patterns can be discerned. Together we make sense out of it. Telling it again and again, we make something sublime out of it.
When someone gets rolling, the story takes on its own cadence, its own poetry. It becomes an entity independent of the teller. A good story drives away ego and petty quotidian concerns. We forget our names, the teller and the audience together. By all means, tell us more.
It takes practice to tell a good story. It takes care to speak from the heart, to try to render the nuances of emotions that have no names. It takes listening. Listening uses the ears, the eyes, and uncharted inner organs. Also the heart. Without the listener, there can be no story. Listening can be a great gift, and telling the tale can be a greater one.
Maybe it's a story in itself. Maybe it's an important insight that sparks a new story in the hearer. Whatever it is, it's a bit of dialogue from a character in the grand book of the world. It's a thought turned into living word. It's a fleeting moment noted and recorded. It's worth attending closely.
Tell me more.
Thank you for telling me.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.