Listening to a moment can help the person speak change

By Franziska Kohn

*Note: This text was written in the context of her participation at the Beyond Storytelling Conference 2018, and it was originally published on the Beyond Storytelling Harvest 2018 Blog. Here, Franzi remind us about something very essential: “the dynamic between re-membering, telling and listening and how this can lead to change. In small or large steps” (Jacques Chlopczyk).

As I was walking to the metro station in the morning and found myself soaking up the atmosphere of the vibrant street in a nice quarter in Hamburg, I passed a small Turkish grocery store. I was actually on the lookout for a bakery to grab a bite to eat and maybe a coffee on the go. Being greeted with a warm 'Good morning' made me briefly pause and notice that they had Brezen – something typical from southern Germany and one of my favorite bakery stuff. Turning around, I went into the shop and got a freshly baked, warm Brezen and a Coffee and was sent on my way to the conference with a nice 'have a wonderful day'.

I would have never expected this moment to be shared in the next few hours at the Beyond Storytelling Conference with a small group of people I had never met before – just as I had never expected to enjoy really good tasting Brezen outside of southern Germany, which is something really rare to get and precious for me. I loved having two unexpected experiences collide to create something even more meaningful.

What world in a word ~ what story in a moment

So, I got to share this moment. It was an exercise one on one – simply taking the other person to my moment, talking for seven minutes about it. I cannot recall the exact question, it was related to what travel means to us. And for me travel is related to exploring and excitement. And this moment in the morning I felt this excitement. So I got to walk into this moment once again, telling my story, and most importantly, being listened to. Another person, a listener, being there, listening with curiosity, attention, presence – and by that creating space and time for the story to unfold, for me to walk into it, to work with it. I'm not going to share now the whole seven minutes, because I can talk a lot and do not want to make this never-ending reading (plus the story behind the story is a longer rumble). Yet I'm gonna share briefly what happened within this seven minutes of purely being listened to, starting with a deep breath.

Sharing the moment allowed me to „walk“ back into the excitement I felt, which was actually the core of this moment to me. It also took me to other moments where I felt this excitement, as well as when I did ... yet actually expected it to be there because I needed it to fuel me, to refill my energy tank so I could keep on working with inspiration. It took me into my story where I was starting to question my abilities and actually felt guilty and ashamed for not being able to refuel and thus being of value and support to others... at least not with the potential I know I have to offer. The excitement I felt in this moment I shared, showed me that my excitement is still with and within me; it's not gone or lost because of me. I perceived it lost, yet it was there the whole time, only clouded by another story. And now I'm reconnecting and rewriting the story that is really mine. Stepping into my story allowed me to work with my story.

And then I took a few more deep breaths.

Sharing and telling one’s moment, one’s story – as well as listening to someone else’s story this way, is a gift. It creates engagement, a connection – between the teller and the listener, and also within oneself.

And sometimes, well actually most of the time, it also helps us to connect to the bigger picture. It helps us reflect on the moment, connect it to other moments, step into our story, set it in context, empower us to own it and rewrite it... organically instead of forced. A moment, a story which touches us and speaks to us does not fall out of the blue. It is there to be payed attention to. And when we do, insights and inspiration shows up.

step into your moment, your story
being listened to with curiosity, attention, presence

"Telling my story, is beyond storytelling, it is about being listened to".

Telling my story is beyond storytelling, it is about being listened to. This gift of a listener being present and giving attention is a huge one. And holy moly, yes this all happened within seven minutes. And then changing roles. And I could gift the gift of listening.

It might sound so obvious and logical that telling a story and being listened to go hand in hand, and one cannot go without the other. Yet, for a story to be heard, truly heard, it requires time and space. It requires curiosity, openness, non-judgment, allowing it to just be told without being interrupted. It only wants to be listened to without focusing on your response, on stepping in, on adding your thoughts, assumptions, or jumping in to fix something or provide a solution. It is 'just' to be present and listen.

And remember, every story is worth being listened to. It takes practice to listen this way. Listen to someone’s moment today, and notice what happens.

*All the pictures by Franziska Kohn.

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