I was recently invited to join a group of women called the “Adventure Friends” for a long weekend in the Utah mountains. The common bond was a love of downhill skiing, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. Although I am friends with the organizer of this adventure, the rest of the group were all new to me.
Arriving to our Airbnb, everyone split up to stake their claim for sleeping quarters. My friend, being the organizer, had the master bedroom to herself, which meant that I would be rooming with someone I didn’t know. For a moment, I had a flashback to summer camp and that awkward feeling when your parents leave and you have to make the best of the situation!
My roommate and I began exchanging the polite get-to-know-you information. At one point, in response to some basic tidbit of information I had shared, she said “Tell me more” and then settled in to listen. I found myself opening up and trusting her more because her body language conveyed that she truly cared about my response. That led me to inquire more deeply about her life experiences. Over the next three days, I noticed how she would often say to others “Tell me more” and listen intently to their response.
On the surface, one might surmise that she and I had very little in common.
> She is closer in age to my mother than to me.
> She is Jewish. I am Catholic.
> She enjoys downhill skiing. I prefer snowshoeing.
However, simply by telling each other more, we discovered many things we have in common.
> We are both women of faith who work actively to improve our communities.
> We both relish that moment at the top of the mountain where you can see for miles.
> Her daughter is an alum and mine is an active member of the same sorority (sadly, not OPA).
> Her daughter has worked abroad. Mine intends to work abroad. (Now I have a mentor to help me through that experience!)
By the end of the weekend, we had truly built a bridge. Her contact info is now in my phone and mine is in hers! If I hadn’t gone on the getaway, our paths might never have crossed because our lives are so different. But, I am so very grateful that we had the opportunity to meet each other—and that we had the courage to tell each other more.
Since returning home, I’ve thought about the “safe space” that we created in that Airbnb. We did not necessarily have any stated ground rules, but we were intentional about creating an atmosphere that valued each person’s perspective. As I was sharing that observation with another good friend of mine, she reminded me of a reading that she uses to open group dialogue as a facilitator. Titled “Turning to One Another,” it encourages the participants to focus on the value that each person’s experience brings to the conversation. Imagine what would be possible if people focused on new possibilities and approached differences in opinion with curiosity and a desire to learn more. Our bridges would be transformed in size and shape. Instead of a small wooden structure across a creek at the park, we could traverse the Golden Gate Bridge!
All it takes is the sincerity to say three words, “Tell me more,” and the desire to truly listen.
Jan Titsworth (Delta), National President
Turning to One Another
Margaret Wheatley (from her book, Turning to One Another)
> There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about.
> Ask “What’s possible?” not “What’s wrong?”
> Keep asking.
> Notice what you care about.
> Assume that many others share your dreams.
> Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.
Talk to people you know.
Talk to people you don’t know.
Talk to people you never talk to.
> Be intrigued by the differences you hear.
Expect to be surprised.
Treasure curiosity more than certainty.
> Invite in everybody who cares to work on what’s possible.
Acknowledge that everyone is an expert about something.
Know that creative solutions come from new connections.
> Remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know.
> Real listening always brings people closer together.
> Trust that meaningful conversations can change your world.
> Rely on human goodness. Stay together.