Look and Listen

I would like to think that I’m a good listener. Listening-Skills

But then I remember how incredibly skilled I am at forgetting names, eight seconds after the person has introduced themselves. I am also an expert at allowing my mind to wander off and think about a million other things RIGHT in the middle of an important conversation.

This leads me to believe that I have some serious work to do when it comes to my listening skills. It’s not that I don’t care what people have it say, it’s that my mind rforgotten namearely slows down. I suddenly focus in on what a great outfit the person is sporting, and I’m trying to pinpoint where I can find that shirt, but in a different color to go with my skin tone. Or I find myself zoning in on a word or phrase that the person said, and taking mental notes about what comment I should make about that topic. (I like to think this is me being an “active listener” but let’s be real…)

Or perhaps, the worst is when someone just needs a listening ear and some affirmation, and I keep trying to do this…

Sometimes the best medicine (aside from laughter) is to listen. And listening can mean a multiple of things, but one thing it ALWAYS requires is talking less. Less problem solving, less explanations, and less storytelling. More focus, more understanding, more empathy, and more attentiveness.

This article discusses the value of listening into people’s eyes, and it begins with this quote by Dr.  Edwin Shneidman:

When you listen for the pain, hurt and fear in people, it is always there.
And when people sense you doing that with no other motive than to alleviate all of those,
they will lower their walls and reveal them to you.

I love this quote because it speaks to the truth that showing genuine interest in another human being is incredibly disarming. Listening is true act of selflessness, and one that is not valued enough.

The article goes on to discuss that listening to the eyes of others, is a sure way to communicate (without having to talk) that you truly desire to learn, understand, and know the other person.How-to-maintain-healthy-eyes1 When we turn our attention to another individual and have ears to hear not just their words, but their eyes, we  see and hear and feel so much more deeply. Do you think it’s possible to be more attentive to the eyes of others while their speaking, and still be labeled as an “active listener”?

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Cross Em’ Off

I don’t hate lists. I don’t love them either. They do make me feel productive, but they also make me feel too OCD if I have to subscribe to them on a daily basis. But a list that I have learned to love is the ole fashioned bucket list. Because as I move to and from different roles and different cities, I’ve learned that life happens in seasons.

I don’t think I realized this fully until senior year of undergrad when I refused to believe that my time in Athens as a student was coming to a close. It went by so fast, and I know that I did not cherish that time the way I should have.

And I find myself feeling that way on a regular basis. Our time on this earth is so short, and our time in each occupation, city, role, etc is even shorter. I’m becoming more and more aware of how quickly the days go by and how I tend to wish them away or simply “get through them” because I only identify days with what needs to get done.

I become so busy with fulfilling responsibilities and meeting expectations that I forget to live.

So I’ve started to make a bucket list for each city that I live in and then a larger bucket list for things I want to do or experience before I kick the bucket.

Here are a few of the items on my bucket list that I have been able to cross off so far.

1. Attend an Alanis Morissette concert (Click here to see a clip of her performance at The Tabernacle)

2. Move to a city where I have no friends or family

3.  Coach basketballbball

What’s on your bucket list?

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Technology: A place to hide?

I can recall stumbling onto social media in middle school when it became cool to talk about your day, write emo song lyrics, and post shoutouts to your favorite people on xanga and myspace. It’s funny because I really thought people cared about each thing I posted on those forums. Looking back, it all seems extremely juvenile that I would createtimthumb.php a webpage in a form of an online journal (xanga) and anxiously await the time that my mom would let me on the computer so I could see who commented on my post that involved lyrics to my favorite Destiny’s Child or Simple Plan song.

At the time, it all seemed so important. So vital. Because EVERYONE was doing it.

Not much has changed since then. We follow what everyone else is doing. Because we like to be trendy and we like to follow what is “trending”.

But at the core of it, I think we all want to be heard.

An extremely credible source describes communication as a “meaningful exchange of information”. And we all have our own ideas of what is determined to be “meaningful”, don’t we?

This can be a powerful thing. It can lead to advocacy and dialogue to promote awareness and change on all kinds of levels. It can promote different perspectives and open mind and heart. The sharing of ideas is a good thing.

On the other hand, being able to communicate faster via e-mail, twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc has also led to an epidemic (in my opinion) of selfies and communicating to sselfies-1083501-flasheek out not just an avenue to be heard, but to be valued and noticed.

I found this article that interestingly enough found that individuals tend to be more honest through digital communication while also being more dishonest. The researcher found that we find it easier to be more honest when talking to someone online than in person. On the other hand, we have also refined our lying skills because it is much easier to text “Sorry I couldn’t make it, my phone died” instead of owning up to the real reason of why we didn’t want to hangout with that negative nancy of a friend. It’s also incredibly easy to state an opinion on a Facebook status, yet be unwilling to exhibit that amount of boldness in person.

I have noticed in my own life, it is much easier to type or text or email my feelings instead of sharing them face to face with someone. Is that cowardly? Probably so. But I have a feeling I’m not the only one.

So is technology allowing us a place to hide or a place to be seen?

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Don’t Postpone Joy

I used to think I would move away. Far far away from Georgia and the south.

In fact, I was hoping for Europe or Africa or maybe even somewhere down under (Australia) and marry a heart throb like Keith Urban. Living and dying in the same city or state is not at all appealing to me. So I made plans to get out of dodge after graduating college.

But then I fell in love with my work at City Year while living in South Carolina, and found myself applying for grad school back in Georgia. It’s funny how we plan our lives out a certain way, and days later we’re transitioning into something completely different. God is full of all kinds of humor.

I met some pretty incredible people who will be livelong friends while working at City Year and they live all over the US, which I love because it gives me an excuse to travel!

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Before we all moved on to our next seasons of life, two of my friends and I decided to road trip up the east coast. We began in the Carolinas, drove to Blacksburg, DC, New York, Cape Cod, and finally to Boston. Now understand, I am not a huge fan of close quarters. Sharing really close spaces with others is not my favorite after school activity. So hours in the car with the same people may or may not have driven me nuts.

But there will also moments in the car while driving to western Massachusetts with the windows down, and my hair blowing while I ate my PBJ, that I began to wonder if this was what Heaven would be like. The AC had gone out in the car and sweating was becoming my favorite past time, but none of it mattered.

Because things change so quickly.

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One minute you’re graduating college worrying about a job, and the next thing you know you’re explaining to your family why you’re using a college degree to volunteer, and THEN you’re driving through Massachusetts with a mouthful of peanut butter. Unreal.

I realize that I am not one to trust, because I would rather plan. But at the end of the day, there is not a whole lot that I have control of, and for that I am grateful because I’m a poor planner anyway. I’ve been trying to do a better job of letting things be, and enjoying life exactly where I am.

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Last summer I took advantage of my summer before grad school through road tripping. Sure I was broke. And sure I could have been doing a million other practical  “professional development” things, but heck, why postpone joy?

Live a life that is worth writing stories about, right?

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Stories.

storytelling

I’m a huge fan of movies and music. I think it’s safe to say, that I’m not the only one.

I can remember developing a love for music in high school.music I’ve never been all that great at expressing things, but I would stumble across some music that was able to put words to things that I had been thinking and feeling, but could never express.

The stories that I found in music allowed me to connect them to my own stories. The same concept shapes my love for movies. Seeing stories played out on a screen provides a venue to articulate different ideas, emotions, and viewpoints in a tangible way.

A recent film that I had the privilege of viewing was Lee Daniels’ The Butler. The Civil Rights Movement is something that we may all be familiar with, but to be honest, as a white girl growing up in metro Atlanta, the only real information I learned about Civil Rights was what was taught in school. The Butler (2013) Forest Whitaker (Screengrab)All of my American History classes spent a few days covering different time periods, the lessons would touch briefly on the centerpieces of the different wars and presidents. By the time we got to the 1940s-1960s, the lesson plans focused in on the world wars and then lead to a couple discussions around the importance of MLK and his “I Have a Dream Speech” during the 1960s. So for me, as I left high school, I simply knew information about our country’s history.

I knew information, but had no connection.

It wasn’t until I actively became engaged with certain groups, organizations, and individuals that I was awakened to the truth surrounding events and time periods in our history. As I began to hear stories, it completely changed my entire perspective. The stories I heard did something that classroom could not.

The stories brought emotion, courage, truth, and above all else…meaning. I never fully connected with the information. But I connected with the stories. View the trailer below about the stories found in The Butler.

This article in The Harvard Business Review discusses the importance of storytelling when it comes to the professional world. The article discusses that powerpoints and memos do not engage people. Good story telling does.

Stories connect with everyone of us because they involve desire, change, conflict, and resolution.  Storytelling may involve humor and exciting events, but I think at the core of it all, good storytelling requires honesty.

Because when one is honest, it gives others permission to do the same.

There is a website I love called I Am Second. i-am-second-imageThe sole purpose of the site is to provide short films of people telling their stories. A friend recommended it to me a few years ago, and I find myself being inspired by these people’s willingness to openly tell their story. I know I am far from being a good story teller, but the stories I hear from others moves me to live a life that will make for good stories.

 

What are some of your favorite stories?

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It’s seasonal

Summertime had always been an easy favorite of mine growing up.

My summers never looked anything like this

My summers never looked anything like this

Just like many other restless kids and teens that were ready to break free from the routines of bus rides, endless assignments, questionable cafeteria food, and awkward interactions with the opposite (or same) sex, I LOVED summer.

As I moved on from high school, I was awakened to the fact that lazy days involving

no schedules and all the classy OC re-runs (or The Hills, Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill…the list goes on) were just not fulfilling. Paired with the blazing hot misery that comes with the  Georgia heat, I have become less of a fan of summer.

In fact, I’m breaking up with summer and moving onto a new lover…

                        FALL YA’LL

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My love of fall has only grown since moving to Atlanta, but here is a brief list of why I have recently converted.

1. New beginnings and new goals.

New school year. New football seasons. New. New. New. Routines are in full swing, and apathy takes a backseat. I feel like I can breath a little easier knowing that sleeping in until noon and staying up all night are no longer normal.

2. Less sweating.

hot-summer-weather-sweat-workplace-ecards-someecardsDon’t act like you can’t relate to this one. On most summer days when I shower I come out of the bathroom sweating, leave the house sweating, take the trash out sweating, and go to bed sweating. I would prefer to only sweat with intentionality.

3. Coffee shops and scarves.

Somehow, the taste of pumpkin spice and other warm beverages is just a bit more yummy when you’re sitting in a coffee shop in your favorite scarf.coffee-house-large Or maybe reading in public just makes me feel like I should be on a cover of a trendy magazine. Either way, coffee shops and scarves make the list.

4. The smells and sounds.

I always keep the windows open. It keeps air moving when it’s hot and humid and it keeps me in love with thunderstorms when I can listen to the pouring rain. However, when it starts to enter fall, the smell of wind, leaves, and bonfires floods through my open windows. Not only that, but I live next to Grady High School and during football season the school hosts games nearly every Friday night and Saturday morning so I tend to wake up to “TOUCHDOWWWNNN!” and it is the perfect alarm clock.

5. Music (especially live)There are certain artists that just sound magical during fall. Mumford and Sons and Damien Rice are some prime examples. However, there are also a couple others such as Alanis Morissette and Gungor that are wonderful all year ’round, but are even better when the leaves change and concerts are in full swing.

Gungor at Variety Playhouse

Gungor at Variety Playhouse

 

 

Alanis Morissette Concert:)

Alanis Morissette Concert:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have a favorite season?

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Personal vs Professional

I remember the glory days of AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) and Xanga. We were all cute and young and incredibly creative with our usernames, weren’t we? Come on, do not act like you weren’t one of those that spent hours brainstorming, only to find yourself creating public profiles such as “babyboy210” or “2hot4u”.

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Social media has certainly evolved since xanga and myspace, but the struggle is still real. How does one balance personal and professional “images”? I can recall my first  true step into adulthood was during my undergraduate days at UGA. I had joined a huge philanthropy group on campus and was assigned to a committee. Our committee leader required us to all create a Gmail account. I didn’t tell anyone, but at that point, I still had my email account that I created in 7th grade: hoopschicka030@aol.com.

Here I was, 19 years old, with an email address that actually included the term “chicka”. Heck, if it wasn’t for my committee leader, I may still be sporting that email address!

tweetScreen time has taken over the majority of our time, so it makes sense that we would utilize social media to stay connected to the world around us. While it is a platform to represent yourself to friends and family, it has also become a venue for employers to research potential employees. It’s a networking tool. A venue for sales. A place to promote and advertise services and spread breaking news.

Social media has the power to reach all people at all times with a click of a button, and that is a blessing as well as a curse. Whether we desire it or not, we are marketing ourselves through what we post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

For me, I feel it is dishonest (and way too much work) to create two different accounts for personal and professional use. I am very aware that employers may find access to my social media, and I am also aware that I am representing myself to not only future employers, but to family and friends. You may find me posting links to fascinating articles and inspirational quotes, but you will also find pictures and images of animals, places I have traveled to, things I find funny, or maybe even just a collage or babies and puppies because I am in love with both!

A stumbled across this article, that touches on how personal accounts exist for people to socialize, be entertained, and share content, while professional accounts exist to maintain a professional identity, network and search for careers. Aside from LinkedIn, (which I use solely for career purposes) I want my social media to reflect my true identity in the most appropriate way. For me, that means developing balance. Social media can be used to draw negative attention or positive attention and I would prefer the latter. Boundaries are certainly necessary, because over sharing has become quite the epidemic in our culture., but overall I think the characteristics discussed in the article mentioned above, can be merged and work together in a positive way.

When it comes to employers, I would like to believe that if they can access an online profile, they would like to find a candidate that is professional, yet also human.

What do you think?

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