My friend Sunny calls it, “the Friday morning weep-fest.” After last week I’d have to agree. Driving downtown, I too had tears rolling down my cheeks listening to National Public Radio’s latest selection from the Storycorps Project.
Storycorps is an oral history project begun in 2003 where tens of thousands of everyday people have interviewed family and friends in a mobile recording booth. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD that the participants take home, and archived for generations to come at the Library of Congress. Here’s Storycorps founder, Dave Isay, sharing from the project:
Chief Justice John Marshall once said that “to listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well.” I am impressed with not only the result of these interviews, but also the process. How often do I give my loved ones 40 minutes of uninterrupted, focused story telling time?
So you might wonder, what had me tearing up in the car?
This week I passed a coffee shop table where a friend sat with a pretty red-haired woman. Being introduced for the first time, I blurted out how beautiful she looked in an emerald green sweater set. I think I caught my new acquaintance a bit off guard and upon heading out again I thought, “There I go again…”
My husband shook his head a few months ago as we boarded a plane and I shared with the young, handsome airline staffer that he had great eyes. My daughter cringes when I can’t help myself and tell her friends how I love their outfits. I try to temper this behavior — the poor airline employee blushed apple red just to remind me that this is not common practice — but I still hold a deep belief in acknowledgement.
I believe in acknowledgement and its sister action of encouragement because 1) It’s a conflict resolution skill of the first order and 2) It’s the reason that I have chosen to bravely embark on many favorite accomplishments.
When I am passionate about an issue like good education for all, there is nothing more delicious than another seeing my passion and affirming fully that he’s heard me. “You really care about this. It is what feeds your soul. Here’s what I understand you are saying…” Hearing any of those are balm to the soul. If others are enthusiastically making a point, just let them know that you have heard the content, emotion and impact of their words; this works wonders in conflict. You don’t need to agree; just be clear that you have truly heard them.
Before I left on an year long exchange to Mexico after high school, I was required to go to a Rotary training session over a weekend at a camp outside of Minneapolis. One of the session leaders suddenly required us to give an impromptu speech to about 10 gathered students and adults crowded in a small cabin. 30 years later (can it be that long?) I still remember one of the Rotarians coming up to me and out of the blue saying, “You are really good at public speaking, do you know that?” I didn’t.
Now, whenever I get up in front of hundreds, or embarrass young airline employees that kind soul is more than partially to blame. His words encouraged me. They mattered, whether were true or just one man’s opinion.
The art of Joshua Allen Harris
Check out this fun piece on artist Joshua Allen Harris, who after a bit of encouragement, has taken to creating fantastic pieces using garbage bags and subway exhaust.
Where has encouragement empowered you? How might you acknowledge another’s contributions this week?