How to listen properly, when you’ve heard it all before
Are you, like me, in that tricky space where you’ve heard your parents or grandparents stories so many times you cut them off as soon as you hear the opening line? But at the same time you really want those stories written down, because, quite frankly, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.
If you’re with me, read on …
Here are three tips to make sure your [insert here]’s story gets heard, and recorded.
1. Formalise a time and place
Make a date for them to speak and you to listen. It might be a one off to test how it goes. Or you might choose 20 minutes a day for a week or 90 minutes a week for a month. Or one day a season for a year.
Remember – it has to suit them as well as you. If you can’t do it in person, you can do it over the phone or Skype, just make sure you’ve tested your recording device and pressed record!
2. Prompt the story telling with questions
The questions can be open or specific. It’s up to you. (See Useful Memoir Prompts to start you off.)
Note – make sure it guides them towards the stories they want to tell.
3. Really listen to the answers
Do you know that feeling when someone gives you their full attention? It means they’re not daydreaming about something else. They’re not trotting down their own path sparked by what you just said. They’re not rehearsing their next response. They’re actively listening to what you have to say.
Three tips. It’s really that simple.
At the end, don’t let the session go on. Story telling and, in particular, listening well, can be tiring. Thank them for the gift they’ve shared.
Either save the file (and back it up!) as an audio recording. (I have a tiny snippet of my dad’s voice and it’s one of the most precious things I own.) Or transcribe it. You can DIY or GSE (get someone else).
If this doesn’t sound like something you can do – there are myriad reasons that get in the way – get us to do it. As professional listeners, we’ll listen with good humour and compassion, in part because we haven’t heard all those stories before!
May your words pour onto the page,