No story without a listener

It was a small training session. The group was learning a new process to record the stories of their programs for practice evaluation. One woman looked flustered, anxious.

‘Every morning I wake up and think, ‘How much longer can I keep this up?’ It was like she said it to herself but out loud. ‘I work harder and longer but it doesn’t seem to stop.’

There were nods here and there. The group had heard every word and it was rocketing around inside them. The group leader looked concerned too but as it turns out, she hadn’t really heard. Her concern was on getting through her agenda.

‘Well, hurtling right along…’ she said. ‘Can we get back to the main issue today?’

It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.

Right in front of them was a perfect, dramatic story of practice but it wasn’t the story the group leader needed right now.

In my work with organisations, I’m thinking less about the need to know how to tell a perfect story. And more about how well we understand and learn from a story when we hear it.

Can a great story exist without a great listener?

Illustration from “Le Petit Prince”: copyright 1943 by Harcourt Brace Company