Listening is a Conscious Act of Service

By Shannon Kainula, student facilitator, CVA group at Eva Rothwell afterschool program

Student Open Circles’ Facilitator Training meetings offer me a time where my only imperatives are learning to understand myself and others, and how to expand certain skills, such as meaningful conversation.  I find the former particularly important, given that so much of my focus is given to accomplishing goals, without always thinking about why those goals are important.  With all my worry about school and aspects of my personal life, it’s easy to push time for self-reflection to the wayside.  In this respect, I value our regular leadership training meetings for carving out slices of time for personal growth, both of myself and of others in the group.  Being in a group is helpful, as others’ experiences and perspectives are vital contributions to my own learning process.

The Facilitator Training meeting that had the greatest impact for me was centered on what it means to listen. We discussed how listening is a conscious act, not a passive one, and that the mind must be clear to allow someone else’s words room.  With CVA, I volunteer weekly at a community centre with young children.  Following the  Facilitator Training session on listening, I realized that the times the children seem most happy are when all I do is give them my full attention, so that they can talk to me about whatever they want and know that somebody cares about what they have to say.  It hadn’t truly occurred to me before that the act of listening could be more valued than the words given back, or that those words aren’t necessary to show that I am listening.  Understanding this makes me less quick to provide feedback as a defense mechanism when I feel uncomfortable with my silence, which I now find particularly important in those first few conversations when getting to know someone.  Sometimes, all we can do for another person is listen, and I’m increasingly finding that this is more than simply okay.  I consider this just one of the impressions Student Open Circles’ leadership training has made, and one that has made me a better facilitator, friend, and community member.