Story Telling, Story Listening
Suno na suno na sunlo na...
I was nervous about a date I was going to. So I called a friend for advice. I was told to not eat like a monster, and listen to what she had to say.
I took the latter advice and the date went well!
I always thought I was good with conversations. But it turned out that I was only good with the speaking part and not the listening.
All of us are storytellers and we are filled with stories from our everyday life. But there are only a few good-listeners left in the world. Yet, the stories have to be told and someone has to listen.
A generation of Bad listeners!
Listening in itself is a process. The other person must be heard, understood, and be empathized with. It’s also about giving a safe space for conversations.
As a kid, I was told stories from Hindu mythology, Panchatantra, and so forth. At the end of each story, my parents used to ask me the “Moral of the story”. Most of the time, my understanding of the story was different from what my parents wanted to teach me. So they had to correct me and tell their moral of the story.
The parents we wanted:
A friend told me that it was a daily ritual in their house to tell parents about the day in school. Now in an Indian household, you couldn’t tell your parents what you did in school. So she used to either cook up stories or filter out just good parts of the day to tell her mother.
Imagine going back home and telling your mother about an exam you cheated in, or a class you bunked!
The parents we got:
I read Remnants of a Separation by Aanchal Malhotra. She attempts to revisit partition through the objects refugees carried across borders.
My own family was a product of partition. My grandfather was a teenager when they had to flee our house in Multan. I didn’t know much about partition so I started discussing the stories with him.
I saw him open up like never before. His thoughts were fragmented, but some memories of our house in Multan were still clear to him. He told me everything from our ancestors, to how they struggled in the refugee camps, and some internal family gossip!
I think of all these conversations I would have missed if I had not sat down with him to talk.
BBC documented some stories of partition. Here’s one of them:
My Grandfather was a member of RSS throughout his life. Despite a gap in our political beliefs, our conversations were often interesting. He used to listen to me and was welcoming to new ideas and thoughts.
It’s a rare quality to have in a world that is becoming divided and the living room discussions are turning into Prime-time debates.
The 9 pm club
I had a chat with a friend who is studying psychology. A clinical psychologist can help in dealing with anxiety, OCD, and depression through verbal therapy. Active listening is a part of the session. It includes making the client comfortable, nodding while the client is speaking and paraphrasing to understand better.
Going for a counseling session is a taboo and the sessions are expensive. So people find other ways to express themselves. You will see a lot of conversations happening on the roadside paan shops, salons, cafes, and so forth. People discuss politics, the weather, cricket, etc.
I meet my friends every day in my hometown at 9 pm. We discuss our problems, rant about our days, and talk about simple dilemmas of life.
Now we have too much love for each other but don’t have the vocabulary to express it. So it comes out in the form of silly jokes, insults, and name-calling. All my life decisions have been discussed in the 9 pm club. At first, you are made fun of but then you are heard and helped.
Some dating advice
On the first few dates, when you are getting to know the person, it’s important to sit back and listen. You will be surprised to see how interesting it gets if you give someone the space to open up. You must realize that sometimes your story shouldn’t matter.
If you don’t believe me, watch Rachel make her move:
An example of this could be some of the new-age male characters. They are never the star of the show, have their shortcomings, and are often good listeners. Some of them are – Kabir Diwan from ZNMD, The hot priest from Fleabag, Doctor Jahangir ‘Jug’ Khan from Dear Zindagi.
Most people are not listening to the other person while having a conversation these days. They are thinking of the reply they will give to prove their point.
But listening is a powerful tool. If you listen well, you will end up having a good conversation. It's a great way to enter someone else's world and be better off!