by guest blogger and Ex Fabula volunteer Ann Marie Moss

We humans have a hard time with listening. Many of us seem to have an innate tendency to think of our response within the first three words of our conversation partner’s comment, rather than hearing their their full statement before considering our reply. When I consciously try to listen for the last word of someone’s sentence before thinking of how I’ll answer, the conversation seems richer, with a deeper connection. (I first discovered this at an Ex Fabula workshop during an exercise led by storytelling coach Karen Kolberg!)

Woman with glasses, wearing a white and pink sweater, sitting behind a cake shaped like a lamb

The author’s Grandma. “She’s wearing a necklace I made her. This is at Easter, about two months before she passed in 2010.”

I find this to be especially true with my family. Since I’ve known these people my whole life, it is particularly easy to interrupt them, assuming I know their opinions and what they will say next. Of course this isn’t true.

The holiday season before my grandmother passed away, I learned more about her – her childhood, her parents, her early romances, her loyalty – than I had in my 25+ years prior on this earth. She always had such energy, but after a tough illness, she was getting frail. It took that extreme switch for me to choose to listen. I sought out her opinion and asked to hear stories from her life – how her parents came here, about her experience in the city. She shared brilliant insights into life and expressed opinions that were completely contradictory to my assumptions; she was more real, less judgmental, and more accepting than I had ever experienced. After her passing the next spring, I was so thankful I engaged in conscious LISTENING over the holidays.

This year at Thanksgiving, I’m looking forward to participating in The Great Listen with other members of my family. It’s nothing formal or serious, simply a movement to consciously listen to each other when we gather for Thanksgiving. The Great Listen encourages us to spend a few extra moments with someone, learning about something important to them. I think of it as a mini-Story Corps (who, incidentally, started this movement).

Will you join me?


How to participate in the Great Listen

FrontStoryCorps is working with teachers and high school students across the country on this project – but it’s open to everyone.

  1. Download the StoryCorps app on any mobile device.
  2. Sit down with a friend or family member during Thanksgiving weekend.
  3. Use the app’s built-in prompts to record an interview – which you can publish or keep for yourself.

Of course, you can make this experience your own. Do what works for you! Ignore the prompts and come up with your own questions. Maybe even skip the app and track down an old tape deck or super 8. The important thing is that you take time to listen.

Afterward, please share you photos and comments about your experience on social media with the hashtag #ExFabListen15.

Happy listening!