Storylisteners and Empathy

photoWe’d been admiring extroverts for quite a while until Susan Cain came along and pointed out The Power of Introverts.

I’d like to make a similar case for storylisteners. We know the power of storytellers, but what strengths do storylisteners have?

Well, I think that storylisteners are curious. They’re eager to learn more about the person they’re talking to. Good storylisteners ask good questions, in order to do that. In the process of learning more, they forge connections.

They learn something about the other person that humanizes them, something that’s personal, maybe not often shared. I think they do that because they’re really listening.

Whether you’re a teacher or a school leader or someone who works with people or develops products for people or on and on and on, you need, at some point, to be a storylistener. I think it’s a requirement for empathy.

I wrote about empathy in a previous post, and I co-authored an article with Deborah that got posted today on MindShiftKQED, wherein we talked about empathy in relation to boys. 

Check it out and let me know what you think!



  1. lauragenerationgrit on June 27, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    I just read your fabulous article on MindShift. Actually, I’ve read it three times now because the words are exactly what I needed to read today.

    I’ve just recently launched a toy company aimed at boys called Generation Grit. As you allude to, there is a welcome new trend in toys for girls, encouraging them to reach for the stars. Love this, as the mother of daughters. But where are the similar toys for boys?

    In the sea of superheroes and musclebound action figures (which I’m not opposed to … and in fact I think many are wonderful), I still was surprised to see few male toy characters who celebrate other kinds of strength. More than muscles. So, I created some. And we write adventure stories to go along with the characters.

    We have been using a tagline “because there’s more than one way to be strong.” We celebrate that strength is also about curiosity, adventure, empathy, kindness, grit …

    I was stunned to learn how controversial this is. I have received many negative comments about my supposed agenda to emasculate boys. Reading your article was so invigorating. Adventure books, action figures, pretend play … they can all make a difference. Thank you for the article! I am your new biggest fan.

  2. Gayle on June 27, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Laura, thanks for your comment. I’m so glad you enjoyed the article and found it helpful in relation to the work you’re doing. I’m eager to check out your site to learn more. Love your tagline – “more than one way to be strong!” Best wishes with your important venture!

  3. Danielle on July 3, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Hi Gayle, I really enjoyed your article on MindShift. I have 2 young children (1 boy and 1 girl) and it reminded me of the issues surrounding boys that we tend to ignore. I find myself so focused on making sure that my daughter has opportunities for leadership and STEM education that I forget the gender disparity for boys. It also reminded me of a book years ago I read for a gender studies course – In a Time of Fallen Heroes. Excellent read and speaks directly to these issues.

  4. Gayle on July 3, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Danielle, so glad to hear you enjoyed the article! Deborah and I talked a lot about that – we’re both passionate about STEM for girls and yet there’s a missing element around empathy for boys. When we looked into the research, it was clear that this was an important topic to discuss. I’m going to check out Time of Fallen Heroes. Haven’t read it, but am eager to do so. Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment. Happy 4th to you!