authentic conversations

Meet Shannon.  One of the most incredible human beings we have the pleasure of knowing and calling a cousin/sister/friend.  We recently went out to Arizona and interviewed her about what we feel is such an important topic, authentic conversations and meeting people where they are.

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Janie: Shannon, tell me a little about yourself.

Shannon:  I am almost 32 years old.  I have lived in Arizona for about a year.  I live in an apartment which makes me rich and famous according my sweet, little niece Rheya.  I enjoy hiking, kayaking, adventure, travels, family, friends, and God, things like that.  I graduated in 2006 with a bachelors in psychology from the University of South Carolina Upstate.  After that I moved oversees as a missionary through an organization called Campus Crusade for Christ, worked with them for a couple years, and lived in a country called Kyrgyzstan for about a year.  I then moved back to the states and ended up in Colorado, my favorite state in the whole wide world. I got my masters in psychology with an emphasis on organizational leadership and then worked at Compassion International for about 5 years.  I then found my way to Arizona and now work in higher education at Arizona State University.

Janie: One of the many things I admire about you, is how you can look at someone and not judge them.  You can look at a person and meet them where they are.  What is your secret?

Shannon: For me, I love people.  Learning someone's story, what makes them tick, their heartbeat, where they come from, basically what makes them who they are is what I'm most interested about in life.  People are my heartbeat.  

Janie: What advise can you give to people who don't feel like they are gifted with other people, who are afraid of confrontation about touchy subjects such as religion, politics, parenting, and such?

Shannon: I think it's all in the approach.  It's really a heart matter.  Are you going into a conversation to try and change them? Or are you going into it to force them or wanting them to believe what you believe? Or are you truly wanting to know their views and their thoughts and where they come from and why they believe what they believe? I personally love these conversations because I want to be challenged personally.  We all have our innate thoughts, how we were brought up, our environment so it's kind of that nature vs. nurture thing but as you grow in character, personality, and experiences, you start to learn new things.  So when I go into a conversation, I go into it thinking, "what can I learn from this person".  In return, when you have these conversations with people, it gets them thinking, it challenges them too.  I love to be challenged myself, and I love to challenge others.

Janie:  What advise can you give to people who want to be genuine and authentic but they are afraid of offending or hurting someone, so rather than talking about it, they put a bandaid on it or try to ignore it only to see things get worse?

Shannon:  It's important to always think with statements like "I" statement where you are not attacking someone.  Human nature, it's easy to get defensive, whenever there is a "you" statement.  Another thought is put yourself in their shoes.  You have your beliefs, there is so much that makes up a person.  People can tell when you're sincere and when you're not.  So if you honestly don't care or you don't want to know, don't ask.  Don't enter into the conversation.  

Janie: Anything else about authenticity?

Shannon: In my experiences in the last five years or so, I've learned life is not as black and white as I grew up thinking it was.  Maybe for some people they grew up thinking it was gray and now they think, no it's pretty black and white... I don't know.  There is so much to learn, ways to be pushed outside of our comfort zone.  When you allow yourself to learn from others, in a sense, it allows you to dig deeper into what you believe.

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Stay tuned for Rheya Lee's interview with Shannon about anything and everything.  If you need a good laugh, that is.