Today, I attended a leadership workshop with ten people that I had never met until this morning. At one point in the day we were paired off to complete an exercise called, “River of Life.”
The first part of the exercise afforded each of us some alone time to sketch out our “rivers,” and identify key crossings and choppy waters along the way. I’m an epic doodler and they had scented markers, so, I was in.
After twenty minutes we paired off for part two: traveling down someone else’s River of Life for 15 minutes, and then taking that same time to bring that same someone else down (up, or through) our own.
The point of the exercise is to strengthen listening and presence. When you’re the passenger moving along someone else’s river, you’re not allowed to take notes – and aside from the time actually spent drawing, there’s zero prep-time for mapping out your own navigation.
For me, it was a fascinating trip.
I indulged in listening. Really listening. Not worrying about my new all-natural deodorant failing, or time passing, or even getting this exercise right…just listening.
And this is what I heard:
We all have the time to get to know each other. Really, it takes no more than 15 minutes.
We all have stories worth sharing. Smooth sailing is a myth.
We’re all navigators and passengers. All lost and all found.
And then, quite literally I heard what was hardest to hear:
Amanda, I’ve just shared more with you in less than twenty minutes, than I have with most people…ever. You can access your empathy and vulnerability in a way most people can’t. It’s like you make safe places, (snaps) instantly. I think you should have a podcast, or a book, or both – I can tell you, I’m already a fan.
I fought every urge to look away. Compliments – especially when delivered with such sincerity – are difficult for me to accept. I know how to process critiques and take-in feedback, but graciously hearing, and receiving, and believing such kindness…that still feels awkward.
Hell, having the gall to record this exchange feels awkward.
But, awkward is real – and if the reward for feeling it is to be put in a position to share, and say, and hear more of the good stuff, more often…then, I am fully (and awkwardly) really all in.
(P.S. Full disclosure I did sniff all of the markers)