Storyforth: Remembering how to listen

For blog 2.indd

At the 16th Global W.I.N. conference in Prague, Jane noticed that I began a storytelling workshop by focusing on empathic inquiry—the ability to listen and ask open questions.

Why is empathic inquiry important?

Because listening to stories engages our attention in meaningful ways. When we sense that a story is authentic, we begin to look for connections in our own work.

This type of listening is different from hearing a list of imperatives given in a Powerpoint presentation. We listen in a deeper way to stories and we begin to ask the question: How can I use this story in meaningful ways?

Jane thought about the potential for connections at work. Then she said, “This reminds me of an experience in a seminar I gave on Finding Hidden Talent.”

Jane said that at the end of that seminar one financial executive stood up and said, “I’m going back to my office to look at all my performance reviews. By listening to these stories today, I realize I have been walking right past all kinds of talent and possibilities.”

The stories helped this executive move beyond his habitual patterns of thoughts.   Jane reflected on this moment: “and the rest followed…that simple act led to multiple actions.”

Stories have action built into their core: character–action, character–action. The sequence of actions in a particular story shows us the possibilities for movement in a new direction—especially once we connect our story with something that matters in our work. We will share examples of these connections in upcoming conversations.

Storytelling changes the way we listen. Action presents a new path.

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