A couple of weeks ago our Founder Kate gave our facilitators some training material she had created and asked that they complete it over six weeks. The training included weekly activities that encouraged the facilitators to step outside of their comfort zone in hope that they would learn something new about themselves and our community, which they can then bring into our creative content planning for our workshops. Kate believes that anything we ask our participants to do (in our workshops) and anything we advocate on social media, we as a team must be willing to do those things ourselves.
Cat, one of our new facilitators wrote a truly inspiring and thought provoking reflection about her second week of training when the activity was to start a conversation with three different strangers. Here is what she wrote:
How were you feeling before talking to the stranger?
I felt relatively calm, but I did wonder if they would be hesitant to engage or be disinterested.
How did you feel after the conversation?
For the most part, I felt good! Some attempts at engaging with people were a bit of a failure mostly because I think they were just focused on doing a job but in general, people were very receptive to having a conversation and seemed genuinely pleased and surprised that a stranger was interested in them. This made me feel happy afterwards but I also felt as though I barely scratched the surface in terms of truly getting to know them as a person.
What reflections do you have about social interaction and communication?
Separate but relevant to this week’s task, a few weeks ago I asked a taxi driver what his name was and he was so astounded and perplexed that he questioned why I wanted to know. He told me I was the first customer in twenty years of being a taxi driver that asked him of his name.
We are very quick to define people by the roles that they play in society. Instead of seeing Shariar as a man, he is seen as a taxi driver. But like everyone else, Shariar has a story to tell. We learn a great deal from our interactions with others and a simple conversation with a stranger could really make an impact on their day, as well as yours. I think we feel that we must take certain steps, exchange certain pleasantries, before we start to open up to those around us. Not that this is unjustified – I do believe that trust can take time to build within a relationship and that trust is needed for a deeper level of sharing, but I also hold true that sharing even just a small part of yourself to a stranger and listening to the parts of their self that they share is important to building an open and engaging community.
I don’t think people necessarily mean to close themselves off to others, I just think that we can get caught up in our own lives and thoughts and can honestly just forget to engage with those around us. We can easily forget to make a more real connection with the lady at the cashier, we can forget to ask more about the life of the waiter serving us than simply questioning them on how far away the food is and we can forget to ask our taxi driver what his name is.
It’s important to be reminded to not only engage more with strangers, but also to have more meaningful conversations with those who we form closer relationships with such as friends and family.
How many people can one person say that they really know? Knowing someone with regards to their fears, what it was like for them growing up, their aspirations, their struggles, their achievements. Honestly, my answer is a handful- small, but a handful nonetheless. It must be so lonely for people who don’t feel like they know anyone or that they are known themselves.
I think that encouraging social interaction between strangers and meaningful conversations between friends can help evade that feeling of loneliness and is a very important part of compassion and honesty. Having someone, even just a stranger, show interest in who you are as a person can make you feel valued as a human and as a member of a community. This feeling of value can be a large contributor to happiness. By encouraging a more open and honest environment, people are also more likely to be open about the difficulties they are experiencing and this can in turn play an important part in a process of healing.