Storytelling~ Thanksgiving edition

I think it’s time to start listening to each other. Listening to our stories, our hidden thoughts that we don’t really talk about. And what a better time, Thanksgiving.

This post, I want to challenge you to do more listening. Ironic, since I am telling you this over a blog post. Well, listen, or read, rather my challenge to you. But first, I have to tell you where I am coming from. A small story about a recent lesson with my students:

Before school got out for a week, my students and I were working through active listening skills. Its true, even children have a hard time listening, hard to believe, right?  So here we are, 27 students and me, playing a version of ‘telephone,’ a warm-up game to get our ears ready to listen. In the game, students pass along a simple sentence to see if they could relay the same message all the way to the 27th kid at the end of the line. Make a prediction, do you think we did it?

We talked about the the fact that our listening skills need more practice.

No. But that was the best part. Students started arguing, accusing someone of changing the words slightly, shouting “I know Frank changed it!” The truth is, no one intentionally tried to change it. I believe that each of my students truly wanted to see if we could pass the message on, prove to me that they do listen. Then came time for our discussion after the game. We talked about the the fact that our listening skills need more practice. In most conversations, we need to actively listen to truly be conversing with someone else. As we went through the rest of the lesson, students discussed what it looks like to listen, what it should sound like, and what our should body do when we listen. We’ll keep practicing, one game of telephone is not going to be all we try. But it got me thinking, we all need practice lessons in listening.

It is not an easy task to listen to others, especially in a world where we just want to broadcast our own opinions and turn our heads to opposing ones.

It is not an easy task to listen to others, especially in a world where we just want to broadcast our own opinions and turn our heads to opposing ones. All we want to hear is people who agree with us. People who have the same opinions. We get rather upset when we hear ones we do not like.  Turning our hears to only hearing what we want to hear, becomes a way of getting by. I think this a real disservice to ourselves. We can’t possibly expect anything positive to happen or change if we never want to be challenged to hear something else, try something else, just listen to another opinion. Listening is an art that we all need to brush up on a little bit more, myself included.

This post, I want to challenge you to do more listening.

I’ve been listening to NPR radio lately, this week discussing the happiness and stress that surrounds coming together with family for the holidays. Thanksgiving, being the first stop before December’s festivities. In the radio show, callers call-in speaking the various ways they avoid talking about politics around the family dinner table. Being a non-confrontational person myself, I agree with not trying to ‘stir the pot’ at Thanksgiving, but I also have to disagree. The more we avoid talking about the “touchy” subjects, the less likely we are able to make meaningful memories with our families.

The point I am trying to say is we are not really listening to each other. Any of us. We get together for the holidays trying to avoid those hard subjects, filling the air with meaningless gossips or trivial things like the weather. We are not really spending quality time if we are not listening. Listening to the stories that actually matter. And for my family, it is quite hard. There are lots of family members all living these amazing lives that there simply would not be time in one holiday party to have a long, meaningful conversation with everyone at the table. But you’re in luck because I have something quick, something easy that it would be silly for you not to try.

But you’re in luck because I have something quick, something easy that it would be silly for you not to try.

I’ve been inspired by writing instructor this summer to write more, hence the blog started. But also, she inspired me to start to create meaning in my life through the use of story telling. Story telling is a such a lost art, all we want to do is have instant gratification of a like or a heart on our pictures. Those 100 pictures we choose to post in a given year have so many stories to them. Do we take the time to tell these? Or do we just post them and hope people like the clothes you are wearing in them?

Listening is complicated, but I want it be simple. Something we can ease ourselves into. Baby steps. I am not saying confront that angry uncle about his conservative beliefs this time, but I am saying to listen to him as a person. Ask questions, change your perspective, ask about his life, his childhood, how he came to be the uncle with different beliefs than your own.

So here is my challenge to you: find someone in your family, preferably someone older than you, like a grandma, aunt, uncle, that you want to know more about.  And follow these steps:

5 quick steps to follow:

  1. Download the App: StoryCorps
  2. Find out which family members will be at Thanksgiving.
  3. Decide who you want to know more about and ask them if you can ask them a few questions to get to know them more by asking a few questions about their past.
  4. Sit down with them in a quiet room and record on the easy-to-use app. It will maybe take 20-30minutes.

I am going to do it too, and I’ll keep you posted with what I find out. I think that if we take the time to get to know each other more, outside of our own opinions, maybe, just maybe, our listening ears will be tuned in a little bit more.

If you try this and it is successful, or maybe it turns to be so good, please contact me and let me know. I am inspired by people’s stories.

Okay, so now I leave you, exploring the hidden stories, expanding your listening ear. 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving ❤

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