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The Power of Other People's Stories

Two things I've learned from listening to others...

My life has always been filled with stories.

Whether I was telling or writing my own, or hearing someone else’s via books, TV, movies, magazines, etc. Stories aren’t just for entertainment; they have the ability to create deep connections between people. When hearing other people’s stories, I’m able to step into their shoes and experience life through their eyes.

And of course, storytelling has been used since ancient times as a way to pass down knowledge and wisdom from one generation to the next – preserving culture, teaching values, and remembering history (so that we hopefully don’t repeat it)!

As a brand consultant, I use storytelling as a way to contextualize cultural insights for my clients – many of whom haven’t had the same life experience as their target audience. That’s part of the reason why they call me their “secret weapon.”

Here are two things I’ve learned from listening to other people’s stories:

1. We are not alone

The first time I realized I wasn’t alone in my struggle with body image was sitting in group therapy in college my Freshman year. I write a lot about what I learned from listening to my group-mates in my book “A Very Hungry Girl” but suffice it to say the biggest revelation was that I was not alone in the pain and isolation and self-loathing I was feeling. And realizing that was an immediate salve to my soul. That group not only became a life line for me and a model for recovery but it also helped to shape my worldview while listening to others.

When we listen to someone’s story, we get a glimpse into their world, their struggles, and their triumphs. We find common ground and realize that despite all of our differences, there are universal truths, emotions, and challenges that connect us.

That’s why I share my journey and how I started on the path that I’m now on. Because if we can relate to each other and see our shared humanity, it breaks down barriers and allows us to move forward in life with greater purpose and understanding, including creating a more empathetic and understanding world.

2. People need to be heard

I love listening to people.

Active listening has become one of my most valued skills as a professional and personally in my life.

Active listening is about really tuning into the other person, silencing the voices in your head that want to respond and react, and watching for non-verbal cues -- body language, breathing patterns, eye contact. People share so much about themselves through non-verbal communication. And active listening allows you to experience all of that.

Through every panel discussion I’ve hosted, every podcast interview I’ve conducted and every meeting I sit in - I evoke my active listening skills to really form a connection. I try to remember what it feels like to FEEL heard -- and try to offer that to others in your life.

Because at the end of the day, we all want to be heard.

To feel we are being listened to is to acknowledge our voice matters.

What makes you feel heard?

  • Are there any certain gestures or phrases that make you feel appreciated?

  • When was the last time someone else's story surprised you?

  • Do you feel heard by those around you? Let me know -- tag me and let's use the hashtag #IFeelHeard


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