Everyone’s been guilty of saying a perfunctory “that’s wild!” when they realize they didn’t completely process what someone else said. Master of Science in Narrative Medicine program faculty member Murray Nossel, Ph.D. says, “Storytelling is in our DNA and is hardwired into our brains. Whether we’re telling a personal story or a story at work, for stories to have any kind of impact, someone has to be listening." The first way to improve storytelling skills is to become a better listener.
1. Identify the obstacles to listening. Determine the distractions that are making it hard for you to listen, such as social media or perhaps your mind is occupied with other thoughts.
2. Learn how to tune into yourself. Listen to your own breathing, or the various sensations happening in your body when you just sit still, and really pay attention to them.
3. Make sure it’s a good time for everyone. If someone’s in a rush or under deadline, they’re unlikely to be able to listen, so that is not the best time to share anything important.
4. Be grateful for everyone’s time. Acknowledging your listener reinforces the importance of their part in the communication and enhances the connection.
5. Refrain from always sharing your opinions and judgments. Listening to each other, rather than coming up with advice or passing judgment, is one important way of providing support and showing empathy.