How to Listen Effectively: The Storyteller’s Method
Listening is hard.
Very hard because it’s difficult to measure.
Sometimes, the people who look like they are listening are the greatest actors.
- Nodding their head.
- Giving you very enthusiastic ‘mhms.’
- And a very curious ‘you don’t say??’
But in reality…
They are in la-la land.
Why is learning how to effectively listen so difficult?
Well, as I said, it’s difficult to measure.
Listening serves an IMPORTANT role in this world.
It drives change, builds empathy & creates a culture.
Listening is a lot like sleep.
People who take their sleep seriously almost treat it like a sport.
Dark black curtain, no blue light after a certain time, and reduced caffeine after a certain time.
Likewise, we can do the same with listening.
Turn an immeasurable act into a sport.
The Rambling Pandemic
It’s easy to blame ourselves as bad listeners, automatically.
We don’t know how to listen effectively because we just aren’t trying hard enough.
This may be true.
However, other times, it’s smart to see if someone is a bad communicator.
Do they talk too much while saying little?
Not to deflect blame though.
It’s just to see the relationship that they have with words.
For a writer & speaker, words are just a tool.
A tool that we use for a PURPOSE.
Like a calculator.
We most likely bought the calculator for a purpose.
At one point, we needed to calculate some stuff.
Buying a calculator just to have it in your house seems nonsensical.
Likewise, using words just for the sake of using them is nonsensical.
However, that’s how a lot of people communicate.
They just talk & ramble without intention.
What do you do then?
The Storyteller’s Listening Method
When others are communicating poorly, what do you do?
Give them more importance.
‘Wait, what? But they are rambling bro!’
And this is the perfect time to listen.
Think about it…
What are words exactly?
Symbols and sounds.
Why do symbols and sounds have meaning?
What are they representing?
Words are representing someone’s internal world…
The other person is turning a movie from their internal world into symbols & sounds.
For a storyteller, the symbols & sounds are a means to an end.
The end is the STORY.
The key to effective listening is to do your best to recreate their movie in your mind.
One of the most difficult things to do.
And this words to story conversion process is happening in microseconds.
Treat Listening Like an Athlete
As I said earlier…
The sleeper who wants to get good sleep takes it seriously.
Same thing with listeners.
Treat listening like a sport.
When we view listening like a sport, the whole game changes.
Imagine if you are a hardcore basketball fan.
Basketball is your life.
You love playing the game.
However, the park you play in…no one else ever goes there.
So you are stuck shooting a ball by yourself.
Sure, this can be fun for a while.
But eventually, you need some challenge.
-Bring in the people, so I can get some training in!
Likewise, it’s the same thing with listening.
-Bring in the bad communicators so I can get some training in!
Doesn’t really matter if they are bad communicators or not.
However, the worse they are, the higher the potential to become a better listener.
- It’s a game of turning their message into a movie.
Now that we have the athlete’s mindset, the next question is..
How do we EXACTLY turn the message into a movie?
Thinking to Listening
There are 2 types of thinking methods out there:
Reductionist is when you are breaking things apart & understanding each component.
This is called analysis.
Systems is when you are focusing on the bigger picture.
Seeing what the parts are & then seeing the connection among the parts.
The key to seeing a movie from someone else’s words is by cultivating a systems approach to listening.
Focus less on each word & more on the message.
You ever had that moment when you were trying to read…
But you were getting stuck on a line?
Just couldn’t comprehend it.
After some time, you bulldozed thru that line & convinced your eyes to keep flowing.
Surprisingly, the flowing method unlocked big picture thinking.
Not only did you read without much tension, but you also understood the general MESSAGE of the author.
It’s the same thing with listening.
- A reductionist thinker is like: ‘Why did that person use that word?’
- The systems thinker is like: ‘What is this person trying to say?’
Completely different mental frames.
The Rise of the Holistic Listener
The beauty of adopting the big picture systems approach is that reductionist thinking is not thrown out the window.
It just becomes secondary.
Analysis in a conversation can happen when someone brings up a sudden shift in topic.
Talks about a sad moment which you can probe further on.
Or talks about a recent happy moment.
However, leading with systems thinking allows us to get the general picture.
A general picture allows the person to absorb more information.
The key is to set the intention that the goal is to see the other person’s inner movie.
Even if the other person has no clue that the words they are using are just tools.
This knowledge makes it fun to listen.
It gets you thinking:
-How does this other person behave?
Remember how Cell from Dragon Ball Z was absorbing all the other Z fighters?
This absorption process allowed Cell to keep leveling up.
Getting stronger, more powerful & lethal.
It’s the same with listening.
Imagery rewires the subconscious mind.
And that imagery allows you to become Cell.
Level up in real-time with added knowledge.
The Cell’s of the social world consistently increase their skillset of learning how to listen effectively.
Make Listening Challenging & Effective
The athlete loves things to be difficult, especially in practice.
The top-tier athlete, that is.
Having an athletic mindset instills discipline into vague hazy fields.
Although others can’t quite measure listening…
They don’t need to.
It’s a game of, did you understand or not?
Did you just hear words or see the inner movie yourself??
It’s almost impossible to consistently see the movie if it’s not set as an intention.
But when the movie mindset is unlocked in terms of listening, everything changes.
The best storytellers are a student of the game.
‘And what is the game?’
The game is life.
Life’s players are the people.
By studying life, you are required to study people.
To study people, you are required to learn how to listen effectively.
And if you are required to listen, might as well make it a fun process.
For more practical communication insights, subscribe to my free daily newsletter.