Michael Peterson, a junior at Florida Community College at Jacksonville, is our next blogger from Cape Town Direct. We always encourage our students to challenge themselves and step out of their comfort zones, and Michael did just that and found the results to be incredibly rewarding!
When I first thought about writing my blog for Go Global, I struggled to ponder an idea that I truly believed was meaningful and would impact other individuals in a positive way. I still have doubts that this will influence anyone, but I decided I would write about one aspect of what I took away from this program in hopefulness you might be able to take away from my experience. In one word, I feel during this beautiful experience in Cape Town I have learned the value of listening. There is nothing in this world that will make other people genuinely feel appreciated like truly listening. This does not mean waiting for your turn to talk but actually listening and elaborating on what someone is trying to share. I will be the first to admit that I am guilty of talking over people in a conversation. As many people have informed me, including my parents and my girlfriend, “I like the sound of my own voice.” Clearly they are being sarcastic but there is an element of truth, I struggled with this in my entire life but just recently realized how truly detrimental of an effect this can carry.
When I first arrived in Cape Town, I feel I did not give people the chance to share in a conversation. I wanted to be everyone’s friend with less regard to forming genuine relationships. I quickly learned being energetic through a conversation is not the best way to make a true connection and make people feel cherished. I can vividly remember Joanna mentioning, “It’s not always the person talking in the room that makes the biggest impact but the person that has the most meaningful things to say.” This hit home. I realized that you need to listen to make relevant and impactful statements throughout a conversation. I knew this was the person I wanted to become and the only distinct way that was possible was to transform into a better listener.
This is when I made the decision to try and put a sincere effort to listen and relate to people for the remainder of the trip. The result was shocking. I instantly started making deeper connections with people. I learned that everyone has a fascinating story if you give them the opportunity to share and make them feel like you genuinely care about them. I learned everyone has difficult circumstances and situations they are facing even if they put on a good disguise. I learned that everyone has something you can learn from them and that everyone is a master in some field. I also learned that this powerful tool will make you seem smarter, genuine, and well rounded. Most importantly I learned that you will fill more fulfilled. I feel this simple trick allowed me to make some of the most meaningful and best relationships that I have ever made and that will more than likely last a lifetime. I cannot stress how grateful I am I chose to put in an effort to listen and be present.