I spent a lot of time listening to stories over the holidays. I spent time telling stories, too. As I visited with extended family, we shared the stories of our lives — stories of victory and stories of challenge. Stories of wonder and stories of dismay. Stories of doors opening and stories of hopes dashed.
It seems to be innate, especially in the female gender, to tell stories. Stories are so much more than a recitation of facts. Stories have heroes (Okay, mine have heroines!) and conflict and resolution. Stories evoke an emotional response. Stories are memorable.
One key to a good story is a good listener — one who responds to each new development and asks questions that propel the story along.
I didn’t realize how vital good listening is to my storytelling until the day I drove my father home from a cancer treatment at a regional hospital more than an hour away. He wasn’t feeling very chipper when he got in the car, his face and neck freshly sunburned from a new dose of radiation.
“I don’t feel much like talking,” he said, “but you go ahead. Tell me about your life way out there in California. Anything you want to tell me.”
So I launched into storytelling. I started sharing every cute story I could remember about each of my children. But after several, I missed the verbal cues that tell me someone is listening and curious to know what happens next. My father felt far away, disengaged. I fell into silence, and he didn’t seem to notice.
I wanted to listen to him, affirm him in his battle, hear how it felt to look death in the eye. But he didn’t have the energy to talk. Or the energy to listen.
Are you hungry for good listeners for your stories? Want to learn from the stories of your life and hear the stories of others? Want provocative questions that will help you draw out the stories that have really shaped your life?
Taking the time to reflect on our stories can be powerful. We see how much we have overcome. We remember powerful influences and times of transition. We feel the weight, the value of our lives.
We are our stories. The stories we have lived through. The stories we tell others. The stories we tell ourselves.
Uncover your stories.
Copyright © 2012 Marcia Davis-Cannon
Uncover Your LifeStory meets for eight Tuesday evenings 7-9pm, beginning January 15. For more information, or to register, email Marcia Davis-Cannon at UncoverYourLifeStory@gmail.com