The first time I heard about Our Community Listens, I thought the woman describing it was referring to a cult.
We were hiking up Arbaney Kittle together in piles of fresh snow with a 9 month-old baby in an Ergo and thirty-five degree weather. She had forgotten her cramp-ons so I dragged her out of her car and lent her one of mine. As we hobbled up the mountain, favoring our respective cramped-on sides, the conversation almost immediately evolved out of small talk and into matters of the heart. As a new mom in desperate need of adult conversation, I was elated.
Near the top of the mountain my new friend mentioned Our Community Listens (OCL); her eyes got wide and I could see that she had had some sort of spiritual transformation. Being the open and conscious person that I am, I wanted no part of it.
Another friend referenced OCL at a holiday party this year. She, too, practically lost her breath when mentioning the course. After these two women so wholeheartedly described their professional and personal transformations through OCL, I knew that this course was categorically going to blow the mind of anybody who took part.
Now I was intrigued.
I’ll fast-forward a few months to a Facebook message I just typed a few hours ago to another course participant.
Are you still reeling from OCL? Excited to spend the weekend smooching on my little man endlessly. That was the longest I spent away from him since he was conceived… and I have to say that the material was so powerful that I didn’t think about him too much at all!
If you know me, you also know that I pretty much have severe new puppy separation anxiety with my son, now 22 months old. He’s super fly and being away from him for three full days was the primary reason I almost neglected the universe’s clear direction that I should enroll in this course… up until the morning I embarked on the journey up-valley.
Consider now that I spent three days and 33 hours away from him and barely thought about him while in class.
I really hope admitting that doesn’t cost me hours on the couch one day…
No Strings Attached…
What just happened?!
Our Community Listens is a three-day behavior and communications course designed to give you awareness around your own communication profile as well as the behavioral profiles of others.
The course began in a manufacturing company called Barry-Wehmiller. A three-day communication intensive may seem like a far cry from a manufacturing company, but here’s how the course was conceived.
CEO Bob Chapman once attended a wedding and observed a father of the bride giving away his daughter. Chapman had a revelation: every one of his employees was somebody’s precious son or daughter.
In 2003, he began serving his employees (now over 11,000 of them) with an internal learning institute called Barry-Wehmiller University. The course contained classes in leadership, listening, empathy building, and creating a service mindset.
When employees stated that both their workplace relationships as well as personal relationships were transformed, Bob and Cynthia decided to create Our Community Listens, a version of their training that extends to communities outside of the Barry-Wehmiller family.
At present, the course is only offered in a few states and costs approximately $2,500.
To my extreme delight, Bob and Cynthia Chapman offer this revolutionary course FOR. FREE. to participants in their hometown, the Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado. Nearly 1,000 of us have been the recipients of this extraordinary gift to date.
No strings attached. Nobody passed around an offering plate. Nobody suggested writing checks in a secret box as I left the room. Nobody mentioned anything about money.
Mr. and Mrs. Chapman, if you ever get the chance to read this, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I haven’t met you but if I do, I’ll try not to do a disservice to all your teachings on communications.
Better yet, just don’t tell me it’s you.
We Are All Leaders
Our Community Listens commences with a unique scientific behavior assessment and builds on top of it with dozens of models and methods that hinge upon one critical maxim: I AM THE MESSAGE.
During the first few hours of class, you’ll dive into a comprehensive analysis of your strengths, as well as how you can “style-flex”, or adjust your behavior in order to make sure your communication is received by others.
In the end, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert; a researcher or a doer; a left-brained or a right-brained thinker; there’s a way to fine-tune your natural behaviors to be a leader in any environment.
The course isn’t about making your D’s into A’s. It helps you focus on your effortless competencies while tweaking a few B’s or B-minuses; it’s a way to lead communications in life without living perpetually outside of your comfort zone.
When I first heard the title of the course, “Our Community Listens”, my initial response was: well how the hell hard can we make listening be? I’m a great listener. The best, actually. Okay, enough with the Trump jokes.
But in truth, I really had a lot of ego about my own listening skills. I’ve read scores of books on business leadership, communication, self-help, and relationships. I’ve memorized entire paragraphs of Brené Brown’s teaching on vulnerability and shame.
In all my years of earnest research, nothing came close to really honing in the power of communication like OCL.
For instance, listening, as it turns out, is far more complex that keeping your mouth shut.
It’s far more empathetic than shooting questions at the person you’re talking to.
It’s way more than providing “helpful advice” to the person talking.
And it’s much more than nodding, leaning in, and keeping eye contact. Some of these things are important, and some of them are downright damaging to the person to whom you’re listening.
The material in this course isn’t like a Meyer-Briggs, Kolbe, or Strengthsfinder exam.
Those assessments have been at once enlightening… but also a bit damaging. They generally feel like somebody telling you there’s a treasure, but failing to provide the map.
OCL is like one of these assessments on crack, Molly, speed, and the fervor of falling in love all rolled into one. I’ve done at least one of these drugs several times, and I’m telling you: the personal and spiritual enlightenment is even better. (It’s falling in love, okay? I’m too much of a goody two-shoes to have done anything more recreationally conspicuous than drinking wine.)
Most importantly, you leave not only with tools to self-assess, but the ability to assess others in a way that edifies your relationship and identifies their needs.
The Science of Grace
If nothing else you walk away with this: grace.
I learned that all communication is an expression of needs.
And because I haven’t been communicating well, I’ve neglected a lot of people’s needs.
I learned that my people pleasing, indirect, non-confrontational, impulsive and passionate ways are not weaknesses.
They’re expressions of my needs.
With my new skills, I can fine tune my strengths to make me infinitely more effective at work… and home.
Above all, I learned that a strength overextended may become a weakness.
It’s kind of the OCL way of saying that you aren’t bad, you aren’t wrong. You’re you. And you can dial in your communication to effortlessly lead no matter what you strengths or “extended strengths” are.
For instance, I learned how and why I regularly fail my companies with shoddy reporting.
I also learned about why responding to my favorite barista’s story of her miscarriage with, “me too, honey” was actually the most selfish thing I could say in that moment.
I learned how for several years I’ve been destroying a family member with cancer by doing the very thing I thought he needed me to do for his spirit. Telling him to keep his chin up, see the silver lining, and manifest healing seemed appropriate, but may have caused him to suffer even more… alone.
Yeah, I’m humbled. Really flippin’ humbled.
I Am The Message.
There are hundreds of thousands of different combinations of behavior profiles in the world (19 places past the decimal, which is some enormous number I don’t know how to express.) In order to keep the matierial manageable, the class size is pretty small.
I learned that:
- I have an intense need to serve a higher purpose.
- In defense of my beliefs I am sometimes blind to cold, hard facts.
- I’m reliable, considerate, and a people pleaser.
- I have an emotional approach to everything.
- I am too tolerant with people.
- I am indirect, afraid to step on toes or be impolite.
- I avoid confrontations like the plague.
Holy cow. This is uncanny. Among the reasons I signed up for this communication intensive were the known facts that I am:
- A people pleaser (and kinda hate it)
- Too emotional in my interactions (and hate that even more)
- I get steamrolled in interactions when I can’t muster the courage to be honest and direct, and can’t handle confrontation… without making a complete ass of myself… or running away from the discomfort of the interaction.
That first day of class, my heart caught in my chest and for the next three days I was a sponge.
I had a version of the “red mist”, I couldn’t see anything around me but the material I was studying.
Then it got really intense. I wondered…
Perhaps my broken relationships are a result of my negligence of people’s needs?
Perhaps every job I’ve ever been fired from (and there have been a few) is due to my inability to “style-flex” when my strengths are extended.
Perhaps I’m perceived as a flirt at inappropriate times because I really didn’t have the tools to listen and lead while listening.
Maybe I’m getting a divorce because I’ve made confrontations unnecessarily hard… when I’ve now learned how to make confrontations into conversations.
Now, I can’t wait to see who exactly I am in 90 days.
I think I have a pretty good idea. And I’m really excited to meet her.
Seriously. Fast. Results.
The week following my course was one of the hardest in my life. I’m moving out of my married home with my infant son. I have to find work, but I’m not going to settle for my previous career path, as it would mean long hours away from the babe. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to practice my skills.
So here’s how that went…
1. In a conversation with a family member, I practiced special listening techniques with my cousin to help her come to realize that she will never, under any circumstance, take another vacation with her parents. Could I have “told” her this? Absolutely. Years ago! But because I held space for her to figure it out on her own, she drew her own conclusion, which will give her more confidence in the revelation and ultimately the right decision for her.
2. In speaking with a woman who’s been suffering from debilitating health problems for the past half a decade, I found myself able to empathize with special queues I learned in OCL that opened space to share her story without the need for a happy resolution. I wonder how many times I have brushed off somebody’s pain because I was too busy unintentionally dominating the conversation. (See Brené Brown’s incredible video on Sympathy Vs. Empathy below.)
Click for video – less than 3 minutes will change your life.
3. I recently uncovered that a business partner of mine was stressed about a doctor’s appointment, which led him to exercise excessive control over our business finances. In the end, my ability to open these doors for my business partner on a personal level will help our business several times more than if we’d merely butted heads on finances and moved on.
4. I’ve identified at least fifteen thousand things I have failed at in communications with my husband. Will this in and of itself save our marriage? I don’t know, but I’m sure as hell clinging to hope.
5. I’ve reconstructed my business plans; I’ve spent hours at the whiteboard with a business partner negotiating roles and responsibilities that will help me act in my natural state as much as possible while delegating the tasks that will ultimately cause me to run out of intellectual and energetic gas after too long.
Remember: no two class participants will have a list that even REMOTELY resembles mine because the class teaches too much for any two people to have the exact same take-aways.
This is my vulnerable, honest story of what the course did for me in this week alone.
In short, this course is the catalyst for so many facets of communication that it’s impossible to list in one article. And so I hope you’ll just enroll in the course to find out what unique experiences it will provide YOU.
Those Who Can…
It’s worth taking a moment to mention the course instructors. They’re highly qualified, but not just a bunch of enlightened gurus blowing steam.
The material is highly scientific. The instructors have covered the material about a bazillion times. They’ve practiced and prepared the same stories for scores of audiences and hundreds of people.
They brought tears, conviction, vulnerability, and all sans the Southern Baptist “preachy” or new-age emotional hoopla.
Wait a sec…
They’ve taught the material a hundred times but they cried for ME.
What’s more, amidst their conviction and tear-filled personal stories, our instructors managed to convey every single degree of sophistication you could muster.
If you take nothing else away from this article, send a woman in her twenties to these instructors to witness how magnificent the feminine is in it’s full breadth and beauty.
Without being emotional, Mary Margaret and Shirley brought a dozen and a half course participants to tears with their stories.
Without preaching, we were running to the alter, feeling as though our most egregious sin had just been brought to light.
I suddenly saw how whereas I though I was being gracious, helpful, or really vulnerable: I was doing harm to the people around me.
If I had a daughter, I’d sign her up for this course and say WATCH. That’s your Sheryl Sandberg. That’s your Hilary Clinton. Do THAT and you’ll slay it.
So, yeah, you don’t have time to miss OCL in your life, no matter how busy or old you think you are.
My class had a man in his 70’s as well as an 18 year-old girl and it was powerful and relevant to each in unique and, also, ubiquitous ways.
I always wanted to be a teacher but avoided it because some assholes in my life used to say things like those who can’t, teach.
Well, after taking OCL I’m reminded that (A) those assholes should probably take OCL and (B) teachers are too often underpaid rockstars who affect eternity in immeasurable ways.
How To Get In On The Coolest Clique In Aspen…
As I’ve mentioned, OCL is available for free to residents of the Roaring Fork Valley.
But if this article has failed to whet your appetite for the class, I should also mention that the Chapman family has hired a magnificent chef who caters the most unbelievable food in the Aspen course.
For instance, on our final day she prepared homemade gnocchi, sausages (with tofurkey for the vegetarians), shrimp, salad, panna cotta with berries, quinoa, fresh bread, and probably a half dozen other items I’ve forgotten because I just got too full to go back for thirds. (Okay, maybe fourths.)
I can’t make this stuff up.
I finished the last day of class with my belly full and my mind blown.
I called my best friend in Chicago and told her to book tickets to visit me: and spend her whole time in OCL.
So, yeah. I guess OCL is definitely a cult.
And I’ve definitely drunk the Kool-Aid.
How To Apply
Here’s how to apply (it’s best to have a personal referral from somebody who has taken the course in order to get to the top of the 100+ person waiting list.)
LINK TO ON-LINE APPLICATION: http://www.ourcommunitylistens.org/apply-for-a-class
Please direct questions to Shara Brice, Chapter Leader, Aspen (970-987-4358)
February 28-March 2, Aspen (Tues-Thurs)
March 21-23, Aspen (Tues-Thurs)
April 4-6, Aspen (Tues-Thurs)
April 18-20, Aspen (Tues-Thurs)
May 8-10, Aspen (Mon-Wed)