Listen for a Kinder World

November 10, 2017
  • Holly Swift
  • Holly Swift
    Former Executive Director of Our Community Listens

Today is World Kindness Day. Every year on November 13th, since 1998 when the World Kindness Movement introduced the day, people have been encouraged to perform random acts of kindness.

I dream of a world where we don’t need a day to remind us to be more kind.

As the executive director of Our Community Listens, I am deeply honored and privileged to be part of an organization dedicated to bringing about a more compassionate world.

Our Community Listens is a non-profit organization that offers transformational learning experiences in communities at no charge. Simply put, we improve communities by teaching people how to listen and relate, improving how they interact with one another.

This is the point where most people look at me, brows raised, saying, “A class on listening? Transformational? I already know how to listen.” Of course, you do. I thought I did too. Until I spent three incredible days taking Our Community Listens’ Communications Skills Training.

This groundbreaking class is no ordinary experience; we call it transformational because it is truly that. Most graduates say it changes their life. For three days, participants explore themselves and the way they relate to others and come out the other end seeing the world in a different way: through a more compassionate lens.

This unique course:

  • helps people connect and better understand one another;
  • empowers people to strengthen and facilitate healing in their relationships;
  • helps people find common ground;
  • gives people strategies and tools to have difficult conversations;
  • builds trust, understanding and compassion;
  • helps people see the good in others, celebrate the good in others, see the good in themselves;
  • opens doors and creates a space for seeing through others’ eyes;
  • helps break bad communication habits that contribute to a broken society;
  • helps people to help themselves through silence and reflective listening.

Essentially, Communications Skills Training inspires behavior change that contributes to a healthier, more caring society by teaching people to listen with empathy. Listening with empathy—that’s the key to a kinder, better world! Positive and productive human to human interaction is critical to creating thriving communities. By sparking and nurturing people’s ability and willingness to connect and see things from others’ perspectives, we can begin to address many of the challenges of our broken society.

Our Community Listens is intent upon tackling those challenges one person, one community at a time. With ten chapters and programs and plans to expand, we’re really just getting started. But every day, we’re inspired by the countless examples of the transformational power of our flagship course.

We see it in the many teachers who report better outcomes in their classrooms, greater collaboration among their colleagues, and improved communication with their students’ parents. And the fire chief who shares how his firefighters have never worked more synergistically. Or the police department whose officers now feel better equipped to relate to the citizens they protect. The health clinic workers who now are able to better identify with the indigent patients who walk through their door. We see it in the numerous husbands and wives who are renewing their commitments to one another or who share that the course saved their marriage. In the father who, after a decade, was able to repair a relationship with his estranged son. Or the parents who, for the first time in years, are able to have open and honest discussions with their teenagers. And then there’s the one that tugs at my own heart: the young mother, eyes brimming with tears, who expressed gratitude for the course, saying, “I now know how to raise my child.”

The most fundamental way to show someone you care about them, the most fundamental way to validate their worth, is by listening to them with empathy. Imagine the impact if this were the default behavior in our communities around the world.

In honor of World Kindness Day, I urge you to show someone you care by truly listening to them. Clear your mind, silence your words, and stand in service of that person and their need to be truly heard and understood.

Seems to me there’s no better way and no better day to spark a kindness revolution.

Communications Skills Training (now called Listen Like a Leader) is the foundational course in a series of leadership development courses originally developed for Barry-Wehmiller team members and taught through its internal learning institute, BWU. After witnessing the tremendous impact the three-day course was having on team members—both professionally and personally—CEO Bob Chapman and wife Cynthia decided to share the pioneering training with the world by founding Our Community Listens in 2011.


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