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People Who Blend Storytelling In Their Life Live More Awesome

People Who Blend Storytelling In Their Life Live More Awesome

If you can tell a better story about yourself, you will live a better life. I’m living proof of that. Seven years into my marriage, I felt stuck in reverse. My husband and I were living a safe, status quo, all-American story – decent jobs, good kids and a roof overhead. But it failed to satisfy. Deep down we wanted so much more. And that “so much more” had nothing to do with a fat paycheck or a big home in the suburbs – we wanted our lives to be an unfolding adventure in pursuit of things we loved. So we decided to rewrite the script of our lives and invite some adventure in.

It came at a high cost – we quit our jobs, put our house on the market and sold everything in it. We also moved 4,000 miles apart to gain clarity. But the reward has been great – my husband is back in school at the age of 42 while I reinvent myself and my career. We feel fully alive as we live out a story that’s 100 percent authentically our own.

There is so much power in story. If you need help reframing the story of your life but don’t know where to begin, take your cue from The Moth. When it comes to storytelling, they do it best. Here’s why incorporating their techniques will help you gain the guidance you need to walk in your truth.

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1.  You may not have an epic story but no matter how small, it’s significant.

When The Moth storytellers step up to the mic, they assume the air of quiet confidence that everyone has a story worth telling. Yes, there’s the writer who moved to Jerusalem to be a part of the peace process but there’s also the daughter of a stripper who learned some cool life lessons from her free-spirited mother. Every story is worth listening to.

2. You’ll be tempted to give an intro but start with the hook instead.

If your beginning is bad, no one will listen to the end. So make your beginning bold. In my seven years as a radio broadcaster, how I framed my stories changed one day when consultant Tracy Johnson shared, “If you don’t start a story with a good hook, 50 percent of your audience will tune out immediately.” It’s true.

3. You might want to get stuck in the conflict zone but a good story ends with overcoming.

Storyteller extraordinaire Donald Miller says the premise of any good story involves conflict you must overcome, but it’s the end of the story, the overcoming, that truly inspires. Only you have the power to craft that ending. Think through how you want your story to end. The Moth states, “Your last line should be clear in your head before you start.”

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4. Consider this: What would your story sound like if you spoke from an authentic place, forgetting about pleasing your listening audience?

I think you’ll find as you share honestly from the heart, you’ll connect authentically with other people. Storytelling Tip #6 from The Moth is: No standup routines. The world isn’t a stage where you get to be a funnyman sharing your best zingers. The world is a place hungry for people who desire deep connection.

5. Your life is far from perfect but that just means it’s more interesting in scope and depth.

As you rehearse your story “Moth-style,” you’ll hold your own life right up to the light and realize it’s beautiful because of its fractures – not in spite of them. The illusion of perfection is not “Moth-worthy.” Case in point: the story of road rage that landed a new mom in jail. Totally imperfect. But crazy interesting.

6. You need to save your preaching because there’s no “moral of the story.”

The quickest way to make your audience snooze is by talking down to them. It’s insulting and fails to ring with truth. No one has the monopoly on truth. The Moth recently featured a tour guide who confronted racism at work and a man addicted to cookies! They each tell equally compelling stories because we’re all a work in progress on a journey towards wholeness.

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7. You might want to stage your life but you’ve got to go with the flow.

Whether you’re at a networking event or giving a presentation in the boardroom, it helps to have bullet points in your mind to keep you on track, but you need to flex and switch gears if need be. The Moth instructs people to imagine they’re “at a dinner party, not a deposition.” No scripts are allowed at “the Moth.” No papers. No props.

8. You know what you have to gain but what do you have to lose?

A good story comes at a cost. The Moth believes unless your story has some stakes, it’s not worth telling.The most memorable stories involve great risk and the potential for great reward. They involve transformation. Deep emotional truth. Vulnerability. Risking a broken heart. Going for broken to chase a dream.

9. Lighten up a little – life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies but it sure isn’t all bad, either.

Practice gratitude in the little things. Once you pay attention to details you ordinarily overlook in the course of your day, it might wake you up to a full-on flow of a thousand things to be grateful for. Even the darkest story shared on The Moth weaves in humor and moments of levity.

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10. Practice does not make perfect – it makes for perfectly imperfect.

The temptation is always there to memorize line for line to recite a script with a steel-trap memory. But that’s not real, is it? And if something isn’t real, it won’t resonate. I’ve stood onstage after sweating out a speech word-for-word…only to have it fall flat. Why? Because it’s contrived. Should you practice? Absolutely. But don’t spend the bulk of your time manufacturing an image that’s dishonest.

11. Venting is not fuel for a great story – leave your anger out of it.

You’ve got anger issues? So does 99 percent of the population. This fails to intrigue or inspire. If you need to let off steam, call a shrink. Then get back to work on telling a story worth listening to. No one wants to hear a monologue spewing hatred. Most of us can get that by walking down the street. Aim higher for your sake – and everyone else’s.

12. It’s your story – not your friend’s story.

This is Rule #4 for everyone who submits a pitch to The Moth. You don’t get to hijack the stories of your loved ones and pass it off as your own. Have the courage to live your own story and tell it with heart. The greatest weapon you have against self-doubt lies in the narrative you’ll create to communicate your truth. The most powerful story you’ll ever tell is yours and yours alone.

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Featured photo credit: El Nariz via shutterstock.com

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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