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In storytelling, listening is as important as telling.

Why we need to have ears as well as mouths when it comes to telling great stories.

In order to tell great stories, we first need to observe the world around us.

We need to notice the details that other people miss.

We need to listen.

We need to listen to other people and pay attention to their conversations.

We need to recognise that often what isn't said is more revealing than what is said. It's the bits that people skip, miss out, avoid and infer that tell you more about them than what they actually say.

You see, we edit and select our conversations in our head before we verbalise them. We decide what we think other people want to hear, or how we want to be perceived by other people. We do this to protect ourselves from what we are really thinking or feeling, or because we are scared of being judged.

But, if you are a good listener, and you ask just a few simple questions, you can help people to open up more and slowly reveal the real story behind their story.

There is a reason that somebody would tell you a story in the first place. There is something about that story that they think you need to know, but more often than not they don't realise that they are actually revealing much more about themselves.

If we question people in a kind and non-judgmental manner, gently pushing to uncover the 'why' or 'how' behind their story, then they will open up in ways they didn't expect to, and thank you for it too.

So, for example, if somebody tells you a story about them getting sacked by their boss and deciding to go to a theme park before going home to face their spouse. They believe that to be the start and end of the story. But, if you asked them why they chose that location to go to, they suddenly reveal to you that they went there when they were a kid when they wanted to feel free and happy. There's a bigger story taking place than they were first aware of, and you've only asked one gentle, little question.

If you asked them how it felt when they were riding a rollercoaster that afternoon, they will tell you a whole array of feelings, emotions and experiences that they went through, that they had initially neglected to share.

When we listen to other people, with nothing but the intention of guiding them to a deeper truth of their own, we aren't aiming to shame or judge or hurt, just to know their deeper truth, we also become connected to them in a much deeper way.

When we are truly heard by someone else it feels good. We feel acknowledged, accepted, listened to. This is strangely rare these days, where people's own agendas mean they are often distracted, or just filled with their own self-importance and wondering when they can butt into the conversation and tell you all about themselves.

Listening is a gift to both parties. We are heard and we hear. When we truly hear we learn something about ourselves too because we are deeply connected to another human being without the barriers and walls of the ego.

So, writers, we must have ears and not just a mouth, if we want to be better storytellers that is.

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