By Lisa Boonstoppel-Pot
I’ve been making News Years’ Resolutions my whole life. They’ve moved from a determined stance to stop biting nails and get up everyday at 6:30 to more esoteric announcements.
A favourite, during a difficult time was Flow, Forgive and Flourish It was hugely helpful as I learned to let go of hurts and bitterness to allow forgiveness, joy and creativity to root.
Last year’s was “You be you and I’ll be me” in an attempt to release judgement scripts and be curious and open-minded to others. A “walk in their shoes” kind of idea.
I had a transgender friend walking their journey and I wanted to learn in love because I’m pretty darn sure that’s what I would need from my friends during such a time.
This year’s new year’s resolution is still in the works but I was watching my barn cats the other day and the words Curious Cat took form.
Curiousity is natural for me, so I’m in a good profession for it. What I like about cats in the equation is that when they nose around to see what’s going on, they are silent about it. No blabbering opinions or giving unwanted advice. Just looking with wide-eyed wonder.
To further this idea, I was just at a Coffeebreak meeting where we were all asked to pull a popsicle stick out of a jar. Each stick had a question, some silly, some deep:
● If you had a superpower, what would you choose?
● What are you afraid of?
● If you could visit your younger self, what would you tell her?
I don’t know all the ladies in the group and the answers gave us glimpses into each other’s lives, so we had some footing for interaction. I loved it.
I’m also a huge fan of the podcast, Diary of CEO by Stephen Bartlett. At the end of each interview, he asks the guest a question the previous interviewer left. (He is now marketing those questions as a Conservation Cards for 25 euros...no wonder he is a multi-millionaire.)
Some of those questions are:
● What are the failures that changed you the most?
● What is a belief you hold that most people disagree with you on?
● What do you promise to do to make the world a better place?
Whew! Hard to answer but imagine how a long drive would fly by using these as a tool for conversation?
I think — no I know — that we don’t make enough time to really LISTEN to each other. What I see most in conversation is the other person already formulating their response while I am talking. No doubt, I often do the same. What if, instead of responding, we sat with large, calm, cat eyes and formulated a question to help our friend/partner search that thought out?
Active listening, I believe it is called. It wasn’t discussed at the recent S.H.E.D. Talks hosted by the Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health, but it was certainly implied.
The S.H.E.D. Talks are a project to focus on reducing social isolation and lessening the daily stressors that farmers experience. Farmers are being encouraged to meet with their neighbours and fellow farmers to create connection, collaboration, community and conversation.
Too often working alone with huge financial worries, farmers need each other. They need to TALK. They also need to LISTEN.
So, yes, Curious Cat is working for me. I might even buy Bartlett’s Conversation Cards and make him even richer so that I can refine my own curiousity, listening and questions skills to learn who people are and why they do what they do.
On that note, this is a reminder that The Rural Voice is here for another year to tell stories about agriculture and rural life. If you know someone who has a story to share, contact me! ◊