Listening is a bold adventure. And it's rigorous. Prepare.
Stand or sit calmly before the teller of the story.
Check your body. Are your hands clenched? Unclench them. Are your shoulders climbing toward your ears? Let them sink back down. Is your mouth tight? Take a deep breath and relax your mouth. If your arms are folded over your chest, let them hang or rest naturally.
Face the teller. Look into the teller's eyes.
Do not interrupt the teller. Stick with them until they have finished.
Take another deep breath, and allow your own thoughts to settle. They will wait; you can come back to them later. Many thoughts may pop up again while the teller is telling the story; set them aside again. They will be there later.
Put all of your attention on the teller. Allow yourself to sink into this attentive state as you would a movie or a book. Keep your attention on the teller. Don't look around the room or at your phone or at other people or go to work on your hangnail. Keep your focus on them and only them.
Watch the teller's expressions and movements as well as hearing the words. Open your heart as you listen. Be ready to learn. Be ready to understand. Be ready to be transformed.
Listening is not for the faint of heart. What you come to hear, to empathize with, to understand might change you. It might make you sad or uncomfortable or angry. Try to set your reactions aside and keep listening.
Try to see the story from the teller's point of view and experience their experience. This is the magic of story. This is how we can live many lives in one life. This is humanity's great gift.
If you are unclear, ask the teller to clarify or repeat. If you are overwhelmed after you've heard at least most of the story and are unable to hear anymore, tell them you are feeling overwhelmed and you need to think about what they've said. If you feel jolted from your center, sad, or otherwise out of sorts, tell them you need time to think about what they've said.
Thank the teller for sharing the story with you.
Take some time to allow the story to sink into your mind and heart.
Then, tell your own.