By Ellen Yamaguchi
As a person who enjoys a good, deep conversation, I always put the focus on what I can say or share in a dialogue; however, this past year has taught me the power and the importance of simply listening. As a sophomore this year, I have noticed that I have been the person that my roommates, friends, and even my conversation partners come to whenever they are confronted with a problem. Whether it be a late-night phone call, a spontaneous lunch, or a conversation at Leavey Library, they will begin to talk about what has been bothering them and, through that process, they find peace within themselves. In one of my first sessions with a 1-1 conversation partner, the student was telling me about the difficulties she had within the classroom and speaking up because she did not want to feel the shame of people not understanding what she was saying. I started to sense that the conversation was going to be tough for her, so I asked if she wanted me to give advice or to just listen. She was shocked that I had even asked that because one of the reasons why she was having trouble speaking was because no one would even attempt to just listen to her. People would immediately tell her what she is saying is wrong and correct her as a default response. I then realized that something I thought was natural was actually extremely rare to find in people. A trait that I thought did not carry a lot of meaning actually has a large impact on others. From a single conversation with this student, I decided to strengthen my listening skills and to be engaged with any conversation that I have, whether it is trivial or not. You really do not know the impact that you have on someone’s day, and their single interaction with you might be the turning point of making a bad day into a good one.
Nonetheless, it is also important to pay attention to your own mental health and to talk about your own feelings and the problems that confront you as well. I have found that by “lending an ear,” I have served as an example to my roommates, friends, and students too. Now, they are kind enough to state that they are open to listening to my problems too because of the strength with which I was able to provide them. There is power in taking space and making space. Take space by expressing your own thoughts and to be vulnerable in conversation. Make space by taking a step back and becoming the ear or the shoulder on which others can lean. The balance between the two is extremely significant in empowering a community and I have realized that I still have a long way to go. However, it is refreshing to know that we all have a purpose in life and we all can have an impact on anyone, despite not knowing when or where it can occur.
Featured image by Etienne Boulanger on Unsplash
Ellen is a sophomore studying Design at the Roski School of Art and Design. She was born andraised in Southern California, but has traveled to Japan, the UK, and Italy. In her free time, she enjoys reading, drawing, listening to new music, and going on food adventures! She is bilingual in both English and Japanese. In the future, she would like to work internationally and act as a bridge between the US and other international communities.