Thoughts on Story Sharing

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sharing stories is a two-part process - sharing and listening. For a long time I mainly focused on the sharing aspect. During that time I craved the validation and acceptance that comes from sharing. But recently I have been developing my listening skills and have learned that listening is equally important. Being on both sides of the story sharing process has taught me some valuable lessons - mainly those in humility, acceptance, and the importance of stories.

Sharing

I have thought about sharing my story a million times and 99% of those times, I never do. It is dang hard to sit down and put your life into words that actually mean something to someone.


Part of my hesitation to share is that I feel like I have to start at the beginning to give perspective on my life. That's especially hard for me because I've had a fair share of potentially shameful experiences. I personally don't have a hard time sharing those but I am afraid of hurting people in my life by doing so. In moments of bravery, I remind myself that storytelling is extremely personal and that there is a place for my perspective, too. Finding myself between the sensitive consideration of other people's privacy and the burning drive to share has been a refining experience for me. It has forced me to take ownership of my feelings, my thoughts, and my pain instead of trying to blame others.

Secondly, I feel like I have eight million types of stories. Which would you like to pick from? I have a story about:

  • surviving abuse
  • my journey through yoga
  • healing a broken marriage
  • recovering from trauma
  • natural birth
  • exclusive pumping
  • losing and re-gaining my faith
  • being a mom
  • having OCD

Like, seriously, which one would you like to hear? I don't know where to start or which details to include. Some of the topics are easy because they were positive experiences or the pain has healed. Others, like being a mom and having OCD, don't really have an ending. Do I just stop in the middle? I never know.

I love writing because it allows me to practice being vulnerable. I feel like it works in stages - I am brave enough to write. Then I have strength enough to review. Finally I am brave to share. Each stage I am sweaty and shaky at the keyboard. Each end of the cycle brings a sense of relief and weightlessness.

So when I say that story sharing is a sacred calling, I mean it. Its not for the light-hearted. Story sharing is heart-pumping hard work. No wonder I'm sweaty when I'm done.


Listening

Telling the story is only one part of sharing. Listening is a valuable skill to have and its unfortunate that more people haven't spent the time developing it.


The two parts feed each other. Without a witness, story sharing is simply gives a voice to the words inside your heart. And while that is sufficient for a while, my experience tells me that the words become empty and stale without someone to listen to them.

Listeners (or readers, in this case), you are an essential part of story sharing because you give it meaning and purpose. This is no small task.

The best listeners do the hard work. First, they allow a safe, neutral space within themselves to allow the story to simply be told. Free from judgement, the words unfold themselves to show a full and detailed picture.Secondly, excellent listeners appreciate. They appreciate the artistry of the story, the unique voice and personality of the story teller. Then, they appreciate the weight of the story and the bravery required to share it. Finally, they respond. Maybe they have questions. Maybe they have support. But their most important role to play is simple.

"I hear you. Thank you for sharing."

The best listeners are quiet until the very end. They ask questions to understand, not respond. They allow the story to just be. No "At least...". No trying to make it better. No "one-upping" with a story of their own.

I have not always been a great listener; however, with age and experience I've gotten better. The best way I've figured out how to hone my listening skills is actually through listening to podcasts. Its impossible for me to respond in real time, so I am forced to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

One podcast in particular has been life-changing for me. Briana Johnson, hostess of The Life Beats Project, has perfected the art of the interview. I am absolutely blown away with her ability to collect the stories of her guests and then share them in the most compassionate, complimentary light possible. Just this year she has shared stories of people overcoming trauma from human trafficking, healing from a particularly bitter experience of domestic abuse, and discovering their incredible talent for inspiring creativity in others. If you want to perfect the art of listening, you pretty much need her podcast in your life.


Why is story sharing so important?

Its a huge question and there are five million unique answers. For me, story sharing is essential for developing compassion, understanding, and empathy for others. By learning and appreciating the unique journeys and experiences of others, I've realized that people are not always as they appear. More importantly, I've learned that I understand others through the lens of my own experiences instead of their reality.


I briefly talked about my goal of sharing other mother's experiences here on Whole Heart Mom in my previous post Less Judging More Loving. I hope that by providing a platform for story sharing that this can become a place of understanding - a place to destroy judgement and shame, allow them to compost, and let acceptance and empathy grow in their place. So moms, if you have a story to share, I want to hear about it. Your story - long or short, finished or not, well-written or full of spelling errors - is important, valuable, and worthy of being shared.

If you're interested in sharing your story with me, send me an email at channing.parker at wholeheartmom.com and I will send you my submission guidelines!

2 comments

  1. I did -not- wait patiently until the end of the post to start nodding my head and saying, "I know. So true. Yes!" That's probably because I always expect for your writing to be familiar, and fiery, and worth my time. This is exciting!

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    Replies
    1. If I had you nodding before I was even done, I consider it a success! I love the word fiery. I will absorb that. Thank you, Rachel! I always love hearing your thoughts.

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