The Power of Voice

Jim and Don Sargent talk on Story Corps

Jim and Don Sargent talk on Story Corps

When did we all get so angry?

When did we stop actually listening and begin waiting for our turn to talk – or in the case lately – waiting for the green light to start screaming?

Maybe author David Denby is right and we’ve turning into a nation of snarks.

As columnist Maureen Dowd noted on the New York Times op-ed page this week:

“Never before have we had so many tools to learn and to communicate.  Yet the art of talking, listening and ascertaining the truth seems more elusive than ever in this Internet and cable age, lost in a bitter stream of blather and misinformation.”

We need a reminder of the power of voice – the power of listening.  And that’s where “Story Corps” comes in.  It’s almost embarrassing (well, quite frankly, it is embarrassing), but whenever NPR features their weekly Story Corps segment – I nearly always end up with tears in my eyes.  I’m thankful for sunglasses – so my fellow drivers on Fresh Pond Parkway don’t think I’m experiencing a mental breakdown.

In these sorry days of discourse – with people on both sides of the aisle shouting and screaming at each other – Story Corps is a breath of fresh air.  It is a simple – yet amazing concept – listening to other people talk about their lives.  There is no chance to interrupt or to wait for your turn to talk.  You just listen as regular people talk about their friends and family and the events that shaped their lives.

Just listen to brothers Don and Jim Sargent talking to each other about how much they mean to each other.  Don suffers from diabetes and in 1966 both of them tried to enlist in the military.  Jim went to Vietnam, but Don’s disease forced him to stay home.  When Don talks about how much he worried about his brother fighting overseas – his voice cracks.  The power of his emotion is visceral and his narrative connects us all to our own humanity and reminds us that we’re all connected to each other.

It’s an impactful moment – one that I felt in my chest.  It made me clutch my steering wheel and get all Meg Ryan.

You can listen to more of these riveting and very human stories here.  Or you can even participate by recording your own story.

Story Corps calls listening an act of love (and has a book by the same title).  That’s a profound concept.  With all the noise on the Internet, the sniping and snarking, the anonymous attacks, and the partisan cable TV hyperbole and rhetoric being masked as news commentary, Story Corps is a lesson in the power of voice – in the importance of listening first.  When you first come to understand your opponents, your customers, your partners, and your friends and family, you can respond from a position of empathy.  And that leads to communication and conversation rather than shouting matches and arguments.

Anyone can scream through a bullhorn.  But it takes maturity and professionalism to listen first.

Story Corps reminds us all of that important lesson.

Posted via email from HighTalk on Posterous

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