This is the first in a series of blog posts by our Conference Coordinator Interns who have been working at Hillel International this summer to plan Hillel Institute: August Convening at Washington University in St. Louis.
"Be interested, not interesting." As soon as I heard these words this summer at Hillel International, something clicked. This short and simple saying represents one of the most important lessons I have gained over the past month during my time helping to plan the August Convening of Hillel Institute: how to truly listen to any person we may converse with.
I have always had a fascination with people and their stories, wanting to know more about them and where they come from. I would say that I have decent conversational skills and have the ability to carry on a prolonged conversation with just about anyone. However I often fear the silence that inevitably comes up in conversations, and, ironically, find myself not listening to the responses I had asked for, instead constantly trying to come up with the next question. A session recently held by Engagement Professionals at Hillel International taught me the importance of active listening and how much more I can gain from truly hearing someone, allowing them to lead the conversation. By giving over the reins of the conversation, I found I actually learned more about the person in front of me because they could take the conversation to where they feel most comfortable.
I hope to take this idea of being ‘interested, not interesting’ with me for the rest of my life. I have already consciously started stopping myself every time I feel the need to jump ahead mentally in a conversation. As Social Chair of the Jewish Student Union at University of Maryland, College Park I am responsible for creating different social events on campus. I will have to create events that appeal to the wants of the entire Jewish body. One way to do that is by listening to the voices that make up my diverse community. "Who is wise?" Ben Zoma once asked. "He who learns from all people, as it is said: 'From all those who taught me I gained understanding' (Psalms 119:99)." (Chapter 4, Mishna 1a)
Rani Howard is a rising sophomore at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is currently a Conference Coordinator Intern with Hillel International at the Schusterman International Center in Washington, D.C.