Did you get a chance to check out The Moth (and, of equal importance, the hottest guy in the world)? After hearing an interview with Humans of New York’s Brandon Stanton and reading the transcript from Brain Pickings, we’re once again on the topic of storytelling. But this time – it’s not just about storytelling, but storyhearing (which is officially a thing).
So this interview with the creator of Humans of New York (and his latest book, Stories) is fascinating for a number of reasons – hearing his take on money, time, and truth are a few highlights – but what’s really at the core of this project that’s become so successful are 1) asking and 2) listening. We all love to tell stories. We have blogs and Facebook pages and it’s pretty obvious that the whole reason social media is so second nature to many of us now is that we have some sort of innate desire to share. (We like to think of it as more a need for connection than a superficial act, but it’s probably a bit of both.)
But how many of us would be cool chatting up strangers? There’s always that friend or two that seems in their element when talking to someone they know nothing about, but for the most part – a simple hi to a stranger on the street corner, or how are you to the person next to you on a flight is almost invasive. (And think about when it’s done to you – are you open to the chatter?)
Honestly, talking is hard a lot of the time. We’re in a rush to get somewhere or working really hard at that café – and there’s probably a good reason you don’t really want to share what you’re working on – but then miss out on stories. Aren’t we all FED by someone’s stories? Someone wrote a movie that inspired you, a song that makes you reflect on your own life, a documentary that opens up your world to something you never knew, books, articles, blog posts, a conversation with your best friend… these are all just stories in different forms…
And all the best storytellers LISTEN to other people’s stories. I have a friend who sat down to eat dinner in an empty restaurant save for one other guy… Gary Oldman. My friend (never one to get star struck) simply acknowledged Gary when they made eye contact and said he was a fan. Gary invited him to join him for dinner and listened to my friend’s stories.
Think about that. One of the most interesting artists of our day, famous enough to want his quiet and privacy and eat dinner alone with his mind, invited a total stranger to sit down for dinner so he could learn. If he can do it, maybe we should make an effort to get more comfortable talking to strangers. (Ahem, wait till the kids are grown to pass this one along). It’s pretty clear that connection is key to the human experience (and as basic as the need for food), but it’s so much easier just to put on headphones and zone out. All of those stories in Humans of New York are only possible because of someone’s willingness to talk to someone else. (And yeah, we must consider that a woman must have her guard up pretty much 100% of the time, so she must be able to accurately judge the difference between friendly conversation and a potentially dangerous situation, so it goes without saying you must be able to balance that slight discomfort of putting yourself in a social situation with awareness of surroundings and another’s intentions – whew!) So are you willing to talk to someone new?
This upcoming week, it might be time to put yourself out there a bit and connect with someone new… All with the goal to listen.