There is bound to be a certain level of connection built any time a group of people are placed in a strange environment together, but the relationship that was formed between our cohort of peace scholars and fellow Nansen dialogue group members can only be described in one word: family. A week full of nine-hour days of conversation will do that to a group of people, no matter how little they may seem to have in common on paper. We talked about our home communities, our backgrounds, our morals and values, and learned about the art of communication together. I will take all of these experiences with me when I return home to the United States, but the thing that will impact my life and my work the most were the lessons of intentionality that I learned during my week at the Nansen Dialogue center.
When I say intentionality, I mean that I learned to examine my own intentions when I share an experience with a group of people, start a conversation
with a stranger, choose to challenge a remark made by a friend, or listen to the stories of my classmates. One of our trainers said something about intention that has stuck with me since I left the center. She mentioned that, as a facilitator, the most important thing you can do for the people participating in the dialogue is listen with the intention of learning about and appreciating their experiences. “People can always tell when you aren’t intentional about your listening. If you listen with the intention of argument instead of understanding they will shut down. They will not share. The dialogue will be over before it has begun.”
I mean to take this lesson home with me and embody it in my future academic work, personal relationships, and interactions with people. The best thing that I can do for someone else is to make them feel heard and valued, just like the cohort at the Nansen center did for me.