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The Art of Enlightened Listening: How Mastering the Other Side of the Story Sharing Coin Can Make You a Better Person



how to listen better
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I’m a storyteller. I’m on this earth to heal the world with stories, whether through the ones I write and tell or the ones I help other people write and tell. We are story-making and story-telling machines. In fact, science has shown that we’re wired for stories, and we need stories to survive. It’s how we create meaning in the world.

Honestly, though, I prefer “story sharing” over “storytelling.” Storytelling implies a one-way transmission with a passive receiver on the other end. Story sharing requires connection. It says: I want to tell you about my experience. I want to be understood and seen. To share a story—a piece of ourselves and our lives—requires vulnerability. (I envision the sharer standing before the listener, arms outreached, offering a gift.)

As listeners, we can unwittingly trample on that vulnerability and send messages that are detrimental to the sharer’s spirit and to any possible meaningful connection with that person. The greatest gift we can give ourselves and others is to get quiet, listen, and create a space for something new.

This notion of quiet listening is not novel, yet it is difficult to master, as the lack of story listening skills shows up in many ways, such as interrupting, interjecting, and parallel conversing.

1. Interrupting

As kids, we were taught to view interrupting as socially rude, so most of us understand why cutting someone off in conversation is not appropriate. Interrupting oftentimes arises from a sense of entitlement. For example, studies have shown that women are interrupted more than men (and usually by men). 

Granted, there are times when interrupting can be beneficial, however, in the realm of story sharing, doing so truncates the beneficial energetic flow that occurs between two people when they’re involved in a story sharing endeavor. 

How it’s received: Our perception is better, and the story sharer is unimportant.

2. Interjecting

Interjecting comes in the form of advice giving or providing a positive spin, and many people believe they’re doing a good deed by offering solutions or helping the other person “look on the bright side.”

How it’s received: We want to be in a power position or we’re imposing toxic positivity, and either way, the person feels cut off, silenced, and diminished.

3. Parallel Conversing

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an offender of this one. In the moment, I’m listening, enjoying the other person’s story. Then, it reminds me of a story from my life, which compels me to share it right on the heels of theirs. What feels like an attempt to show likeness diminishes the sharer’s experience and makes it about me. I cringe when I catch myself doing this.

How it’s received: We’re one-upping, and it overshadows and negates the sharer.

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” – Dalai Lama

What to do instead

The first step to improving our story listening behaviors is to acknowledge our communication habits. Step back, and take an observer’s view of your behavior during conversations. If you notice yourself interrupting, interjecting, or parallel conversing, ask yourself the following questions.

Interrupters: Am I concerned that I might forget my thought or idea, that the conversation will move forward and I’ll miss my opportunity? Am I attempting to prove them wrong? Do I feel a sense of entitlement? Am I attempting to let the sharer know we’re of the same mind, that they’re not alone?

Whether you’re in a meeting or having a conversation with a friend or family member, you can always circle back later in an email, a phone call, or a follow-up conversation.

Interjectors: Why do I feel the need to offer unsolicited advice? Do I assume that everyone experiences life as I do? Do I believe every person’s solution to every problem should resemble mine? Do I feel a sense of superiority over this person? Do I want this person to stop “venting” or “complaining?”

If the person asks for your advice, still resist. Providing advice, opinion, or insight changes the dynamic between us from an equal exchange to a hierarchical exchange wherein one person assumes a higher position. There is nothing wrong with this, but to work and feel best, it needs to be consensual. Instead, ask questions. A simple “I’m sorry that happened. What are you going to do?” can go a long way.

Parallel conversers: How do I want to connect with this person? Why am I not able to allow silence? Why am I not able to give them the spotlight? How will sharing my story enhance our interaction? Is there another way or time I can share my experience?

When someone shares a story with you, whether it’s a problem, a funny scenario, or an exciting experience, stop for a moment, and say, “That was a great story. Thanks for sharing it.” Or, “That sounds… (incredible, scary, exciting). What was that like for you?” Or, “I’m glad you made it through that,” “I’m happy you were able to…” After you’ve acknowledged their experience, you can say, “I had something similar happen to me once. Do you mind if I tell you that story?”

Understand that we’ve all had vastly different experiences—even when growing up in the same family, under the same roof—because we process life differently, depending on our internal chemistry, our wiring, and our age and developmental evolution at the time life-shaping events occurred. 

Turn the mirror onto yourself. Being a good story listener is oftentimes more challenging than being a good story sharer because to be a good story listener, we need to have a certain level of self-awareness and self-love.

When we possess these qualities, we can be at peace with being who and what we are in any given moment. In turn, we’re able to accept others in the same way without feeling the need to impose ourselves, assume a superior status, or control their experience. We can get quiet and listen.

To heal the world with stories, our careful and thoughtful handling of other people’s experiences is crucial. Stories are powerful tools to elicit human connection. 

The way we respond to the stories of others can profoundly impact the way they feel and move in the world, and it can do the same for us. When we make room for other people’s experiences, we create space for acceptance, love, and compassion. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, CEO, solopreneur, friend, sibling, or mentor, learning to simply be a witness to others’ story will help us evolve as individuals and as a species. 

As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart…” When we do this, we can transform the world.

Have you ever told a story and dealt with an interjector, interrupter, or parallel converser? If so, please share your experiences below!

Johnnie Mazzocco is a writer, book coach, and speaker, and the creator of the Writing Through the Body™ method. She also teaches college students about pop culture and academic argumentation at Portland State University and technical writing and communication at Washington State University. Her work has appeared in So to Speakroofbeam, and Narrative Northeast, among others. Her feature length screenplay, Found Objects, was a semi-finalist at the 2011 Moondance Film Festival, and her short stories, “What I Want” and “Music Theory” were finalists at the festival in 2010. When she’s not snowshoeing the beautiful Oregon backcountry, hiking to a waterfall, or dancing, you’ll find Johnnie at home with a book or her most recent Netflix binge, getting comfy with Iris, her feline familiar.

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Success Advice

How Your Beliefs Can Supercharge or Sabotage Your Success

Your life is dictated by beliefs and biases that drive your thinking, behaviors, and decisions



Your Beliefs Can Supercharge or Sabotage Your Success (1)
Image Credit: Midjourney

Pause for a moment and ponder two pandemic-era beliefs: First, closing schools will control the spread of a serious virus. Second, the consequences of such school closures—particularly social interruption and the prevention of immunity—are worse than becoming sick with the virus. (more…)

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Success Advice

How to Break the Cycles of Mediocrity and Manifest Your Greatness

There is no greatness without becoming and there is no becoming with authenticity



Image Credit: Midjourney

In just a few weeks, we will be wrapping up 2023. Can you believe it? This year has been absolutely incredible for me.

I have seen amazing doors opened, new relationships formed and I am seeing dreams realized in my life. While this seems like the hallmarks of a great year, this has also been the most challenging year of my life. With all of the change happening in my life, I have been forced out of my comfort zone and challenged to grow in every area of my life.

I can truly say that I have made the most of my moments this year and I have used everything as a catalyst for maximizing my greatest potential.

As a revolutionary leader, I have the pleasure of consulting and advising leaders around the world to fulfill purpose, realize their greatest potential and make an impact.

I want to share some insights with you that will help you to break cycles of mediocrity and manifest your greatness

Everything legal must come through the matrix

I am sure that some of you are wondering why I am using the term matrix. However, what you have to understand is that I am trying to make a highly complex spiritual principle practical to understand.

Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, every life has an origin and I believe that origin is divine and begins with eternity. You are birthed from eternity and into time to fulfill a unique purpose and assignment in your lifetime and generation.

The matrix is simply the portal or vehicle that brings something out of the invisible realm and into tangible form. The problem with much of the teaching today is that it excludes the matrix. We are told to believe that success is instantaneous and overnight.

Nobody talks about how a dream progresses through stages beginning with visualization and ultimately culminating in manifestation. Without a matrix or portal then everything that you attempt to birth and build will be illegal.

The matrix not only makes you legal but it gives you the authority and power to function as the greatest expression of who you were created to be. 

Every matrix has an incubation process

While many people admire and respect me today, I remember a time when nobody knew who I was or the significance of my message. How did I get to where I am today? I got here through an incubation process.

In other words, everything that has been destined for your life is incubating and awaiting a set time of manifestation. The problem is that most people live their entire lives idle and never initiate the incubation process.

What do I meany by that? Most people are living reckless and very few people are living intentionally. I am amazed at the number of people I have conversations with that have no vision, goals or strategies for their lives. They show great promise and they have undeniable potential.

However, without development they will die with their dreams still in them.

Everything that has been destined for your life must be incubated and converted to become realities born to time. 

“Visualize this thing that you want, see it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blueprint and begin to build.” – Robert Collier

You must give expression to that which is not yet born to time

When you think about a matrix or a prophetic incubation process, you have to understand that potential is often unrealized and untapped. In other words, your potential is in raw form and your potential cannot serve you as long as it is untapped.

The thing that makes me valuable is that I have the ability to convert potential into power. I have done it in my own life and I have empowered leaders around the world to do the same. How do you convert potential into power?

First, it is important to note that you have to perceive potential. If you cannot perceive your potential then you can never cultivate your potential. In addition, you must take the time to cultivate your potential. We often get excited about our capabilities; however, we never expand our capacity in order to realize our greatest potential.

In other words, the strength of your potential is only discovered through your willingness to stretch. The more we are challenged the more we are empowered to expand our capacity for greatness. Most of all, you must begin to express your potential. The expression of potential is different for every person.

For example, the expression of my potential is best demonstrated through the thoughts, ideas, products, services, books, etc.

For another person the expression of potential may look like a screenplay, artwork, sports, scientific discoveries, medical breakthroughs, etc.

Regardless of the form of expression, I know that you will live empty and unfulfilled until you make the decision to express your potential. The expression of your potential gives voice to your dreams, life to your vision, significance to your moments and activates your true power.

You must manifest your greatness

As a revolutionary thinker and leader, my work has impacted people around the world. I am grateful that my life is a source of empowerment to so many people. However, before anyone could ever benefit from my life, I had to make a non-negotiable decision to become who I was born to be.

I wish I could tell you that this journey is easy and that you will get there overnight. However, in a world that celebrates us for doing we are often criticized for being. As a result, I wasted a lot of time trying to be who other people wanted me to be instead of being who I was born to be.

There is no greatness without becoming and there is no becoming with authenticity. It is through our bravery to be vulnerable that we ultimately manifest our greatness. We do not bless the world by being a duplicate. We bless the world when we honor our difference. When you honor your difference you honor your potential.

Ultimately, your difference is how you manifest your greatness.

When you present anything but your authentic self to the world, you are playing small and you are robbing the world of your significance. Manifesting your greatness requires you to master your gifts.

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Success Advice

Here’s a Young Man’s Antidote for the Uncertainty of the Modern World

Why do a lot of young guys lack confidence in today’s world? 



How to boost your confidence
Image Credit: Midjourney

We all have been told that confidence is a key factor in achieving success and happiness in life. But what is it exactly? (more…)

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Success Advice

Toxic Leadership: 5 Ways to Identify a Bad Leader

if you have a leader who displays any of the toxic traits, it’s time to move on to greener pastures.



Toxic leadership
Image Credit: Midjourney

Let’s be honest, we’ve all crossed paths with a toxic leader in our careers at some point. Unfortunately, while some toxic leaders don’t even bother to hide their behaviour, some know very well how to conceal their true selves behind a strong-built facade. The latter is the most dangerous of the two. (more…)

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