The Art of Story Listening

We do not live in a post-listening world, we just need a world that listens.

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Illustration by Tom Peake
Illustration by Tom Peake

We are living libraries, full of love and heartbreak, trials and tribulations, through conditions of poverty and privilege, of conflict and peace. There is no human who walks this earth who has had a completely individual experience—we all share the same emotional responses to our life events. This is our global human bond. Yet why are there pockets of voices we refuse to hear, to recognize, even when it relates to their human stories, to their innovative ideas, contributions to the global village — matters away from the politics of it all.

The global village needs an emotional evolution. If we can teach emotional intelligence and encourage affirmations of tolerance we can promote understanding at all levels of the world we live in today. Emotional evolution involves the sense we use the most but do not utilize completely—hearing. We can all tell a story, but more often than not it feels as if we are talking to ourselves, even if we are in a crowded room. It takes more effort than most people are willing to spend to actually listen to each other. 

At times it feels we are living in a post-listening world, when really we just need a world that listens.

Sarah Elzeini

In a time when global unity is on trial, and division is all too prevalent in our world, it is more important than ever to listen. Not just to the media—we need to take the time to listen to the stories of other people. It is a longer path and one less traveled; it takes double the time to actually process the information you receive, but a journey through a story always teaches some lesson: a lesson for your own life or a new understanding of a person, a community, or a nation. These are the components of the global village of which we are part, and unity requires being open to these stories and lessons.

It must be said that we are emotionally hardened people, or at least becoming so. The world is getting more complex, and our professions and affiliations require us to speak a certain way or not speak at all. Our reactions are often more controlled than we realize. We want to listen, but due to the way we are conditioned to react, or not react at all, we do not want the emotional burden of stories that touch our heart, leaving us emotionally wounded. When we discount the experiences of others, we not only injure our own mental potential, we also do harm to the global space we share. 

Just as climate change presents us with new priorities and new ways of looking at the world physically and working together consciously, a positive change in the way we think must be of similar importance.

We must be able to see others through constantly changing lenses. We must let go of the past, especially what we did not experience. We must detach in thought from affiliations and views not born within us and learn to think and feel for ourselves. As this emotional and mental evolution takes place, the world will be softer. I truly believe we are hardening. Rest your shoulders an inch, read a story, a good story, and allow yourself to feel humanity without any reservation.

In my experience with global engagements and watching how both media and groups react, we tend to discount and dismiss the great achievements, great people, and great ideas due to a history they are tied to or to our own affiliations –both misplaced grievances. On social media, a powerful dimension, when accomplishment is clear we selectively chose not to recognize it due to misplaced grievances, many of us can find that reflected in the void.. the void in what we chose not to Tweet. In our heart of hearts, we would like to believe we are serving justice, when in reality we are denying the agency of others to tell their story through our selective listening, and choice recognition. That is also denying the free and fair flow of experiences, stories, and ideas.

The only way we can grow mentally and emotionally is to break that mental barrier. We must move past cancel culture. An error should not frame a person or limit his future. One shortfall of a country should not make bounds and gains infinitely invisible. When we cap the stories we receive, we dually put a cap on the bandwidth of our thought and emotion. Both thought and emotion are two powerful drivers that lead to innovation, collaboration, and navigating humanity.

If we can learn to listen, in the truest sense of the word, we will be able to connect with one another. Hope rests in the fact that the younger generation is already reserving their judgment, something many of us refuse to do. Where we all play a role is that, that same rising generation has brought forth “cancel culture,” a destructive mental coping strategy that lacks maturity – something at our older age we are wiser not to espouse. We as people, in our generational demographics, are all part of the global community that must embrace forward movement into a mental evolution, an emotional advancement. 

If you are prepared to listen, prepare for your destiny to change. Prepare for a softer world. A world that thrives. Prepare to see without reservations and to experience unabashed humanity, inner growth, and the global flow of ideas and innovation. Listen. Let yourself go. 

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