I listen to podcasts. A lot. Excessively.
I’ve listened to ones by comedians and ones about serial murderers. Ive listen to shows about athletes and shows about gamers. Ive listened to ones about rappers and one's about farmers. You get it.
So what makes those random podcasts interesting to me? It’s not that I relate to the day to day comings and goings of a rap star or farm hand. It’s not that I've actually played a first person shooter video game or done a triathlon. It’s that these podcasts tell good stories.
I say this because many people get trapped in this notion that "our relationship suffers because we have nothing in common." Some are trapped because they are not listening to the other person to see the human experiences of success, pain, and emotion in a story (see my last blog on listening). Others are trapped because they don't tell good stories.
From my years working with individuals and couples and from my voracious consumption of comedy, podcasts, movies, books, etc, I offer a few tips to connect better by telling better stories:
- Show up. If you want to tell a good story, show up. Don't be talking while watching t.v. or checking Facebook or looking for who else is at the party that you can talk to. If you want others to be present and engaged listeners, be a present and engaged talker.
- Know your audience and try to connect with them. Try and speak their language and use examples they might relate to as a way to illustrate your point. People generally like to feel like you're talking spontaneously to them and not doing the same canned monologue that you've been telling at every water cooler for the past year. They also probably don't like feeling lost or left behind when you only speak in jargon without humbly offering to educate them. When people feel seen as a unique listener and that you are invested in helping them follow your story, they are often more open to listening.
- Check for understanding. Its cool to geek out on details and minutia. But if you're going to take a deep dive into a topic, make sure your conversation partner is keeping up. Ask "does that make sense?", "Did I lose you?", "Do you know what I mean?", "You picking up what I'm throwing down?"...well maybe not the last one. And don't shame or belittle your listener if they don't get it. They could have bull-shitted you but they cared enough to be honest and learn, so honor that.
- Include a liberal amount of commentary and behind the scenes footage. People may not connect to how you're using a new code to work on the financial concerns of middle age men in Nebraska, but they may be interested in how you felt as you struggled to figure it out or the relief of completing it on time. Insights into the human experience behind the story, help connect. Authenticity is attractive in a speaker, so practice letting your guard down and speak from your heart.