By Jay Forte
You have a story. I have a story. Our unique stories tell others who we are, what we’ve done and where we hope to go. They introduce us to others. They inspire us. They make us learn.
However, most of us don’t truly tune in to our own story, never mind the stories of others. We make quick judgements about others, deciding who we like and hate, who is right and who is wrong. But if we were to really listen to each other, we would likely have a profound realization that someone we’re speaking with is actually quite remarkable. You can learn from what they’ve learned. You may even see a bit of yourself in them. You could be changed.
So what stops us from connecting to others and sharing our own stories?
We are in a rush. Our days are filled with responsibilities, obligations and so many things to do. We can blame the world, our work and our responsibilities, but in reality, we choose the activities that fill our days. If connecting with others deeply and in a way that discovers and hears their stories really matters, we would do it. I recently shut the computer down, turned off the office light and spent an evening with an old college roommate, something I would rarely do during the week because of how “busy” I am. By making the time, we reconnected through sharing story after story about life, work and relationships that have shocked, supported, engaged and changed us. I would have missed all this for another hour at my desk.
We are judgmental. How often have you made up your mind about someone only to find you were completely wrong about them? We all judge, it is part of our survival instinct, but most of us do it without realizing we are doing it. We are quick to rule out, cast down, disregard or critique without any true information about the person. I was at the gym recently and watched two women walk by a heavy man on one of the cardio machines. Their contorted faces passed judgment on him based on his size. No words, just facial expressions. It was obvious. I bet if they knew his story they would have had a different response to him (I know he is recovering from surgery and some significant family tragedies). Stories matter.
Suggestion from a coach. I always seem to be in line someplace, mostly waiting get on or off airplanes. Though it’s easier to put my ear buds in and ignore the humanity around me (I am an introvert), there is an incredible opportunity to connect with the millions of stories from the people around me. One of my favorite ways to engage someone in conversation to bring out their stories is to ask, “What’s the best thing that has happened to you today?” The positive tone welcomes the other person in and invites their story. As they share theirs, you will likely be invited to share yours.
Everyone has a story of tragedy, challenge, learning and triumph. And don’t you, too? In a world where we are quick to disconnect, our stories can help us connect. Our stories illustrate that we are all part of something larger, learning as we go and experiencing this great thing called life.
Share your story. Listen to others. You will be changed.
Important Questions from a Coach
- What could you do today to be more tuned in to the stories of others?
- What do you do on a daily basis to be more aware of your own stories?
- How could making time to hear the stories of others enrich and improve your life?
Consider reading What is Life Teaching You?