Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Intern-al Dialogue

I got way fired up about work yesterday. In the Fac-PI retreat (Facilitation Public Involvement Team meeting that lasts for a long time) we talked about a lot of cool stuff.

I was told “you look like you are trying to impress people. You are here to learn. Don't try to impress us with your knowledge, impress us with your character.” I don't know how I feel about that statement. I may not know much, but I am not a blank slate. I was hired because I do know things; because my goals line up with the company's; because I don't need to be trained on the big picture stuff. I am trying to impress people, but that's secondary to why I say what I say. I want to share what I know and hear how that plays in the room. I want to know how the professionals in the business use the things I have been taught.

So yesterday, we talked about reflective listening. To anyone who has gone through Duke Fisher's awesome mediation training, you are aware that is square one. Good reflective listening is the core of his mediation training philosophy. I got jazzed because we talked about reflective listening in context to a facilitated dialogue—public involvement work with groups as opposed to small mediations. I shared my thoughts on the classic NOTE model that has been set-up at Skidmore. It was just a cursory comment about a tool I have used in the past to help me with my reflective listening skills and I wonder if that is source of the comment. Was it bad to try to converse on the subject I knew? Certainly I have used it to great benefit in my own life, and I hope that it would be helpful to Triangle. But “you are the intern, and you are here to learn.” That concept only goes so far. Real learning comes not just from listening but from interacting as well.

It also happens to be the core of reflective listening; let them speak, reconfirm, ask more. Listening does not involve just the ears. Sound cannot just be inserted and an exact replication made. The mind needs to create redundant layers of information to truly understand something. Thought moves four times faster than speech. Think about it.

Anyways, the point I'm trying to make is that what I heard in that meeting yesterday is exactly why I am at that company. They strive to maintain their neutrality as best as possible. They have built their reputation on creating a clear channel of communication between parties of all different interests and backgrounds. While Triangle may be hired by a specific client; we never push for a specified outcome. We merely try to facilitate a productive dialogue with an informed base of concerned parties. We are above all neutral. I like that.

So I'll keep my mouth shut for a while I guess. But I'm going to learn, and I'm going to make this place work for me. Because I believe in what they are doing. And I want to be a part of that.