The power of listening

I am involved in a theater project (with Touchstone Theatre)that is utilizing a process of “story gathering” for the base material from which I will write a play. That play is scheduled to be produced in April, 2014 (no pressure or anything).  

Today I headed out to Bethlehem’s lovely new “Greenway” with a group of nervous Chinese speaking university students.  They were nervous because it was their first foray into the world of engaging total strangers in meaningful conversation.  I think they thought it was going to be hard.  Sometimes it is.  Normally it is not, because most human beings are longing for someone to show an interest in listening to them.

One of the reasons I love storytelling is that it engages us in an ancient art form – listening to one another.  In this day and age there simply isn’t enough of that going around anymore.

Watching the changes in body language of the students as well as those they approached was beautiful.  The nervous college students began to relax when they realized that the older Chinese tourists along the Greenway were willing to engage in conversation.  The tourists relaxed when we showed an interest in them.  Watching the exchanges, and not understanding a word of what was being said, I noticed something.

The act of listening and responding brings about a delight in both parties.  They found commonalities which brought smiles to their faces.  They showed mutual concern for things that were being discussed.

And afterward, the tourists smiled and waved and thanked us.  We smiled and waved and thanked them.  And the students, those very students who weren’t sure about this whole project said to me, “Well that was fun.  When do we go out again?”