Be a Story Listener !!

This past weekend I had a true adventure. I went to visit my son at Ohio University for Dad’s Weekend. I have a vested interest in this not only because of my amazing son, but because I’m an alumni of OU as well !!

Every single moment of the weekend was wonderful whether we were at one of the planned activities or just hanging out together enjoying the people, sounds and movement all around us. It was also spectacular because OU is a beautiful, old campus with distinct architecture wrapped in majestic fall colors from trees that have been there for decades. There was a chill in the air too as people rushed from location to location.

I could continue to go on and on about many aspects of my weekend because I love stories. I am very willing to share a story any chance I can. There are a myriad of blogs and research that show the power of storytelling. This weekend, however, I was reminded of something that is even more powerful.

The best part of Dad’s Weekend was listening to my son and his new friends tell me their stories and experiences. It ranged from stories of discovery to tales laced with uproarious humor !! The young adults that we met were excited to see my son and share stories. This isn’t different than most social encounters, but there was one exception.

When people tell stories, the impulse to share your story is strong. We often get into a pattern of “one upping” each other. It’s hard to let a story stand and sink in. There’s nothing wrong with exchanging stories. I think we do this because we want to make connections and ties with others by showing that we have similar experiences.

Listening EarsThe opportunity I’d like you to consider is to strike a balance and be a story listener sometime. When you do this you’ll capture other’s emotions, passions, opinions and perspectives. If you’re eager to jump in and share your stories as well in a conversation, you may squash other’s interest even though that wasn’t your intent.

Now, this isn’t a post to throw out the old saying, “That’s why you were given two ears and one mouth.” I don’t believe that silence is listening. A great story listener also shows interest and is genuinely eager to hear what the story from others includes. If you’re only biding time “listening” until it’s your turn to jump in, you’re not ready to be a listener.

I took as much time to sit back and enjoy what my son and his friends had to say as I could. I was geeked to see how much they’re growing as young adults, and intrigued into how they’re making decisions in their collegiate environment. The more I listened the more I was actually involved in their stories. They would get to certain points in what they were sharing and ask what I thought. They weren’t speaking just to hear their voices. They wanted to engage me in their conversations. It was wonderful !!

So, this week when you’re in your HR role, take a breath and see if you should be a story listener. Show interest in what employees have to say. Resist the urge to finish conversations in believing that you’re saving precious time by cutting people off. Trust me. The more you listen, the more you’ll actually hear, and you’ll actually enjoy the daily interactions you have so much more !!

4 thoughts on “Be a Story Listener !!”

  1. Steve,
    A classic story as usual. As you note, we learn so much more when we listen and absorb what is being shared with us. Over the years, that is what has made our friendship so great! We have come to know that we each have someone who will listen!
    Fred

  2. Steve, thank you so much for this article. It shows how important it is to listen to each other. I strongly believe that we HR people should try to implement more and better conversations into our daily business. For example feedback talks can be highly satisfying and motivating for employees as well as employer.
    Nora

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