Slow down and connect with others this season

IVEP staff insight

A hand holding a maple leaf

The seasons are changing again in Pennsylvania. Gold, orange, vermillion and ochre are all shining forth from the trees and glinting in the sunlight. I do enjoy fall with the colors and crisp air, but the one thing I don’t like is that it signifies the coming of winter with shorter days, colder weather and more indoor activities. The short daylight hours sadden me and needing to wear bulky layers to stay warm sets me on edge, annoyed at the need to strategically layer my clothing and dig my winter coat from the back of the closet.

Despite not appreciating all aspects of winter, I think it does offer the space to slow down and connect with others in a deeper way. Think about it — it’s a different kind of connection when you’re talking with a hot drink in hand, wrapped in a fuzzy blanket instead of hiking up a mountain with sweat running down your back, needing to stop just to take a deep breath.

Winter can present an opportunity for a more peaceful, reflective time. A time to “be” instead of “do.” A time to slow down and connect with people like the biblical Mary instead of Martha. My personality tends towards a Martha type lifestyle, so being forced to slow down can be initially frustrating yet ultimately meaningful.

In an interview with David J. Smith, a Fulbright scholar, professor and career coach, he was asked, “What are three steps individuals can take in everyday life to ensure their communication and actions contribute to a more peaceful environment?” Mr. Smith responded with these considerations:

One is that when we are engaging with people, we need to deeply listen to them fully and try not only to understand what they are saying but the spirit they are coming from and the motivations that they have.

The second thing is how we respond to what people say. We have to respond with curiosity, we have to respond by showing interest and a desire to be helpful so that the listening and the response become really important.

And the third thing is that words can’t be empty words, that is, they need to lead to action.

It certainly takes more time and energy to converse in this way, but doesn’t it create a deeper and more meaningful connection? These ideas about creating a peaceful environment resonate easily with our IVEP goals of growth as global citizens, learning and mutual transformation, and exploring and developing skills. Simply by listening well we can use this knowledge to build up our communities even during difficult times like COVID-19 and societal change.

What would it look like for me to take these ideas to heart while interacting with IVEPers, friends, neighbors and family? For me to really listen fully for understanding without planning my own response and personal agenda? What would it look like for you? Thank you, David J. Smith, for the reminder to listen deeply, be curious and take meaningful action, especially in the quieter winter months ahead.