By Change Lab student Naomi Ambrose
Thanks to the Fall 2015 Change Lab program, I learned that it is possible to use the beauty and peacefulness of nature to further develop my listening skills, while learning about the passions and values of others.
I came to this realization on the last day of our opening retreat to Camp Alexandria. My fellow Change Lab classmates and I, along with our facilitators, went for a walk from our campsite to a nearby beach. When we arrived on the bumpy yet beautiful gravel road that eventually led to the beach, our facilitators asked us to walk in pairs: one person would speak for 5 minutes about the goals he accomplished and/or pursued a year later after completing the Fall 2015 Change Lab program, while the other person had to listen to the speaker recount the details of his year – without interjecting or commenting. Sounds easy, right? I can assure you this listening exercise was not easy.
I had to make a concerted effort to stay silent when my classmate Nathan told me about the environmental projects that he completed over the last year. I wanted to say: “Wow Nathan, that’s awesome that you completed and participated in these environmental initiatives and projects. I wanted to tell him: “Your love for the environment and nature is commendable and evident” when he showed me some of the plants and trees he replanted as we passed the thousands of green trees and plants, nestled in between the gravel road. (No worries though, I did eventually commend Nathan on his love for nature and the environment in another exercise my classmates and I participated in!)
One of my biggest takeaways from that listening exercise on that sunny September Sunday afternoon at the Change Lab retreat was that, while it might be difficult for us to stay fully engaged and to listen attentively during a prolonged conversation or class lecture, it is nonetheless worthwhile and possible to make an effort to listen to the speaker for at least 5 minutes – with the help of journal, a pen or pencil.
Thanks to that exercise, I also learned that it is a great idea to write down and reflect upon something I learned from the conversation, or maybe something I learned about the speaker’s personality, values, interests or goals. Thanks to the learning that I gained from that exercise and with the help of my Change Lab classmates and facilitation team, I think can officially say that I am on my way to becoming a good listener – 5 minutes at a time.