Trust the listener (witness)

By Limor Shiponi

Remember G said, “I need to trust the listener, my skill, the story”. In this lesson, I wanted G to look at his relationships with face-to-face partners in the act of storytelling, those I prefer calling ‘the witness’ over ‘the listener’. As a mediating technique, I invited G to bring in an expressive ability he has and trusts. He chose sculpturing.

“In your opinion, what is the deepest movement in Rapunzel, the deepest emotion?” I asked. “Pulling or tearing away from, but not disconnecting forever. Something about the nature of the connection will change” he answered and then added, “For some reason it reminds me the feeling I get from that ‘three and four’ citation”. G was referring to this:

There are three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a young woman. (Proverbs 30:18-19)

I asked G to sketch that feeling in sculpturing. He used Plasticine with a technique called ‘fast response’ and molded more than a dozen pieces in about 20 minutes. Then, I asked him to tell me what he sees in each of them.

Finding possible plots

“I don’t feel for that, it’s incomplete, broken, chopped. I wouldn’t stop for it.”

“This moves me; the ropes say ‘I want to separate’.”

“One more stretch and they’re divided. It works because there is tension.”

“Intriguing, I could continue working with that. One will hold on under any circumstances, the other says ‘it’ll break’.”

“I like the idea, the symbols of female and male, almost breaking yet holding on.”

“That’s it, I have nothing more, settled.”

“Together and apart. Soon we separate.”


“Separating isn’t easy. It hurts; it tears, like plowing the land with teeth.”

“Figures tearing apart, father and son.”


“It came out interesting so I kept it. Don’t know what it is.”

Now I told him my spontaneous responses to his sketches, and asked about the experience of listening to them. G said, “I thought – why is she telling me those things? How will it connect to the lesson? Then I thought ‘listen, contain’… but everything I said, she said the opposite. Is she trying to provoke? Go with the flow, you are here to learn. Well, some of what she’s saying makes sense. Is she trying to annoy me? About this one she says ‘love’, can be interesting. Then I realized something: everybody takes it wherever they want. I’ve built an instrument through which you can enter the soul and feel something which is yours.”

“I’ve built an instrument through which you can enter the soul
and feel something which is yours.” ~G

I, Limor, think the above realization is the best storytelling quote I’ve heard in 2012 and is pretty amazing, as is G finally understanding that everybody takes it wherever they need.

Next Meet the listeners where co-creation is possible

6 thoughts on “Trust the listener (witness)”

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  4. As a child, this business of ‘the moral of the story is’ at the end of stories…. nearly put me off stories 🙂 but stories were too precious to let go, so i started reading them without the last line which treated the readers as imbeciles.

    However as a storyteller , while practicing a story over and over again, an inner meaning will reveal itself to me, after a few practices. And sometimes its so beautiful that i have felt a strong urge to share it with the listener (witness, i love that) in a ‘subtle’ way. But something stopped me.

    And recently, i shared a story with a few people seperately…. and each one was touched ever so differently, then i was and from the others by the story.

    And so, i asked myself the question: ‘If what comes strongly through to me in a story, is not to be shared with anybody, what value does it have? am i to ignore it altogether while telling the story?”

    And this is what made sense to me: the meaning a story reveals to me as a storyteller is very important just for me, it is the core from which i tell the story (without any external interpretation), leaving the listener/ witness to hear what is important for him or her.

    Anything done/shared from an honest core, will touch the core of another, stories included.

    1. Hi Erica,
      That was a wise thing to do as a kid 🙂 and a great way to re-look stories by storytellers and especially educators – take off the last line (or even a little more) see what the senses bring back.

      What made sense to you is very true. How do we invite every storyteller to acknowledge that? thinking…


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