LANSING, Mich.-- –
The Michigan Air National Guard (MIANG) is making a concerted effort to understand how communication can impact the mission while investing in Airmen and their families. The MIANG invited Our Community Listens, a non-profit group that offers communications skills training, to hold their third class in as many years for Airmen at the Joint Forces Headquarters in Lansing, April 12-14.
“Essentially we’re walking through how do we lead in a way where people in our span of care feel that they are valued and what they say matters,” said Katie Trotter, a strategic engagement leader for Our Community Listens. “We can equip people with the tools to interact in a way that builds connection, trust and loyalty and that goes a long way for strengthening relationships within our military community.”
Trotter, who is a military spouse, led the workshop to enhance human connection through listening, relating, discerning and communicating and personally understands the benefits of the course.
“There are a lot of different avenues of my life that have been impacted by this training,” said Trotter. “I think one of the biggest things is learning how to have confrontations in a way that actually builds trust and depth in relationships. For me that was a critical turning point, not only for my work relationships, but also with my husband who recently got back from deployment.”
Trotter’s husband is a member of the MIANG, so she was happy to be teaching other Airmen how to apply these communication skills in all aspects of life.
“These are critical skills to help us get prepared for deployment,” said Trotter. “And we learn about agreement versus acceptance in order to foster communication even when you don’t agree on an issue. Another critical skill taught is how to develop empathy, communicate and stay connected which is so important when you’re living two completely different lives.”
This is the third year the class has been taught to the MIANG and turnout averages 15 participants.
“I went through this course several years ago and it’s definitely a valuable tool for your personal life,” said Brig. Gen. Bryan J. Teff, the assistant adjutant general for the MIANG. “It’s also extremely valuable as a professional development event for our military members.”
Since Teff attended, he has been a big proponent of the course that teaches about the communication cycle and how people’s behavioral tendencies convey their messages.
“We want to establish a program here in Michigan we can host, not only for the Air Guard but for the Army Guard as well, we want the full team involved,” said Teff.
Teff has shared the benefits of the course with Michigan Army National Guard leadership to include how communication has improved deployment and recruiting.
“When it came to how I was communicating with my team, and even at home, I don’t think my intent was really being projected,” said Tech. Sgt. Cameron McArthur. “I look at this class as an opportunity to learn how to relay a better message.”
McArthur became the new supervisor for the 110th Air Wing’s recruiting office at the end of last year and since that time has been learning the different personalities that make up the office. He heard about the course from his commander which led to four 110th Wing recruiters attending.
“I think the class does a really good job of helping you connect with the person that you’re talking to and how to build a message that will allow them to understand where you’re coming from,” said McArthur.
After learning about reflective and active listening, McArthur said he had to test it out at home.
“We had a homework assignment for active listening, so after we got the kids to bed, I talked to my wife about her day at work,” said McArthur. “I didn’t tell her that I was applying some of the skills I learned from the course – proactive listening and attentiveness.”
“After our conversation was over, we sat down and played some cards, and she made a comment that she really enjoyed our conversation,” he said.
Proactive listening can have a positive effect on a Guard member’s personal life and in military careers as well.
“I think the important thing is that every time we are interacting with somebody in our span of care, we have an opportunity to connect and make them feel understood or we have an opportunity to leave people feeling very disconnected and alone,” said Trotter. “This class helps us focus on being intentional with every communication to make sure that we are really allowing people to walk away feeling that they were heard.”