November 16, 2015

Watchcare: Active Listening

Active listening is a technique most used in counseling to assist the practitioner in gathering authentic and accurate information from a patient. It requires the practitioner to exhibit core interpersonal qualities and basic interpersonal skills. Active listening is also an excellent tool for sisters of Alpha Phi to better support and care for their sisters. You can use these qualities and skills to:

Listen to a sister in need
Understand someone’s decision making process 
Mediate a conflict between two people

The core interpersonal qualities of an active listener are:

1. Warmth and Genuineness: Being warm towards a sister means showing kindness, acceptance, and love. In contrast, think of someone whom you would describe as “cold.” This person probably didn’t show any interest in your concern and you may have been less likely to open up to this person again. Showing warmth means verbally showing interest, smiling or matching the sisters facial expressions, asking about how someone is doing, or by the tone of your voice or body language. Genuineness requires the listener to be able to be honest with themselves and the sister about their own biases and strengths. Being authentic with a sister will allow them to be more authentic, open and honest with you.

2. Empathy: We often think of showing sympathy to those who have experienced a loss or a misfortunate situation. Unlike sympathy-which means to show pity on someone-empathy is showing understanding of one’s situation. Those who are empathetic are able to put themselves in someone else’s shoes to understand how they are feeling. We may never be able to fully understand someone’s situation if we have not lived it ourselves, but being empathetic allows others to feel safe in our company.

3. Respect: Showing respect for a sister is as simple as noticing the good in others, even if they have made a poor decision. Respectful listeners acknowledge how the person is feeling, without condoning behavior. Respectful listeners also can acknowledge their own abilities, strengths, and mistakes if they interpret a person’s communication incorrectly.

Here are some tips on the basic interpersonal skills to be an active listener:

 Overserving and Attending: Active listeners take mental note of the person’s body language, tone of voice, and non-verbal communication. In order to do this, remove all distractions from the conversation. Meet in a neutral quiet location and put phones away. Give yourself a set amount of time so that you aren’t constantly worried about what is coming up next on your schedule. As you’re able, sit squarely across from the person, keeping your arms uncrossed, and your posture open to your sister.

• Listening: This may seem an obvious skill for active listening, but listening carefully is quite difficult for people to do. Have you ever been in an argument and while the other person was talking, you were preparing your next comeback line? That’s what we want to avoid when we actively listen to others. When we listen, we want to seek the meaning behind the words, not just hear the person.

• Express Understanding: The best way to know if you understood someone correctly is to ask. You might ask in the form of a question: What I hear you saying is…, is that correct? Or it might be a reflection of the feelings that they are displaying or communicating: It sounds like you feel sad about what happened last night; OR I can see tears coming to your eyes. Are you sad about what happened? If the sister says something vague and you need more information to form an understanding, you can simply say Tell me more about that, and the sister may give you additional information. If at any point your sister explains that you’ve understood her incorrectly, remember to be respectful and warm, accept the correction, acknowledge your new understanding, and continue the conversation.

Part of being a great sister is acknowledging that we are not experts or professional counselors. As much as we want to be able to fix all of our sister’s problems and make everything ok, we can’t. Knowing when and how to refer someone to a professional, is an excellent skill to have. If your sister exhibits any of the following, it’s time to refer:

A loss of a loved one, grieving
Alcohol or drug dependency
Suicidal thoughts

Making a referral can feel scary and sometimes like it’s not our business. But your sisters mental and physical wellbeing IS your business and is the business of Watchcare. If you notice that you need to make a referral, be honest with your sister. Thank her for sharing and talking with you, but that it might be best if she talk with a counselor. Tell here that there is a counseling center on/near campus that is available for her and that you’d be happy to walk her to the office to make an appointment. If she doesn’t want to physically go there, you can offer to call on her behalf so she can speak with the office or counselor. It is important to know your campus’ counseling center phone number or campus safety number. Sometimes just sharing a pamphlet or contact information will work for a sister. Follow up with her later to see how she’s doing.
If a sister is exhibiting suicidal thoughts or attempts to commit suicide, call your campus safety or 911 right away. They will be able to assist you in assessing the sister’s current state and determine if she needs immediate attention. 
Active listening takes a lot of energy, so it is important that you also take care of yourself before and after having this kind of conversation. It might be appropriate for you to visit with a counselor as well as someone’s story may impact you emotionally.

Alumnae Author: Katherine Lesperance (Delta Kappa, Wisconsin La Crosse)

Chang, V. N., Scott, S.T., & Decker, C.L. (2009). Developing Helping Skills: A Step-by-Step Approach (with DVD) 1st Edition. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole CENGAGE Learning

On the Road: Oh…The Places You’ll Go

As an educational leadership consultant the places you’ll go are places you never thought you would.  You’re off to a place far from home and the only sure thing is an Alpha Phi chapter awaits your arrival.

The smiles that greet you are some I will never forget and the experiences I have had are irreplaceable. From long recruitment nights to numerous airline flights, the one thing that remains constant is the group of twenty one girls around North America that have quickly become your best friends. It’s much like a small Alpha Phi chapter that travels and shares one common bond, the road. A bond only few share and one that is never forgotten. Although our time on the road is short, our friendships will last a lifetime.

Whether you are an educational leadership consultant, volunteer or a collegiate member, Alpha Phi will take you many places. Whether that be to the Emerging Leaders Institute, Leadership Conferences or even Convention, there are countless places your Alpha Phi chapter will take you. Those places, the people around you and the memories you share with Alpha Phi will remain with you.

As many initiations are happening around North America, I am grateful to travel and share the bond that Alpha Phi has given me with so many sisters around the country. Your Alpha Phi experience may take you down so many different roads, however, those roads may lead you to the unexpected. I never expected to meet so many amazing people or travel to so many places and I am grateful for Alpha Phi. What road will you take with Alpha Phi?

Katie Dunn (Beta Psi-San Jose State) is a first year educational leadership consultant. Learn more about Courtney by clicking here.

November 11, 2015

Collegiate Perspective: Phis Overseas, The Dos and Don’ts

Throughout my collegiate career, I have had beautiful opportunities to travel during our one month January Term. My experiences abroad (and with my sisters!)  became some of the most memorable and meaningful in my life. I have learned so much about the world and my place in it, and I have grown in ways that I believe, while I love this place, would have been impossible to do on a college campus.

I distinctly remember the day we visited The Great Wall of China in 2014. Since we were traveling in a group, our professor had all of the tickets necessary for the excursion and held onto them throughout the day. After a couple of hours of excitement and exhaustion, we decided to take the Toboggan down, not realizing until the bottom that it took us off and away from The Wall. We had no tickets, no Chinese language experience and no way to contact anyone in our group. Since we were far enough outside of Beijing, it was difficult to find anyone that could understand or help us. Yes, we were officially lost in China.

I must say that day was one of the most profound experiences of my life, and also one of the most exciting. It put into perspective the true barriers between cultures and the challenges of interpersonal communication. We were as far outside of our comfort zones as it gets, for not being able to understand anyone or anything can be a little terrifying. We had to be innovative and communicate without language, using pictures and hand gestures to make our long journey back. If you asked me if I would have made that mistake again – I absolutely would.

Each day abroad is a challenge, a gift and a larger part of an amazing journey that is education, no matter how old you are. Here are some dos and don’ts for taking that journey: 

DO: GET LOST IN A BEAUTIFUL CITY – Follow your heart. Get on a different train. Visit somewhere outside of what you find in the travel books. Of course, go with a friend, but don’t be afraid of the unknown. Sometimes, it’s the most beautiful.

DON’T: GET SICK – Most often, you can’t avoid it, but medical care abroad can be difficult to navigate. The medications differ, and it can also be tremendously difficult to communicate with your doctor. I’ve ended up in a clinic in both Kenya and Vietnam… take my word on this one. Make taking care of your health a top priority.

DO: HAVE A “WHY NOT” ATTITUDE – If you do things safely and responsibly, all you have to lose while you are abroad is time. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, particularly the unexpected ones. The things you do spontaneously and on the fly make for the best stories.

DON’T: PACK TOO MUCH – There’s only so many sweaters you can bring! Narrow it down to your absolute favorites, and call it a day. Pick outfits you can mix and match. Save room for the essentials and anything you may be bringing home! Particularly if you are going to be traveling a lot while abroad, you don’t want to haul around the things you just don’t need.

DO: ENGAGE WITH THE LOCALS – Those will be some of the best experiences. Ask them questions about their lifestyle and culture. Take suggestions on places to eat and visit. Often times the “touristy” restaurants are too Americanized. Go for the authentic experience and learn from the people who know the country best!

DON’T: BE AFRIAD TO TRY NEW THINGS – Chances are your trip won’t exceed more  than a few months, so don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new! You can start with baby steps, like a new cuisine. Use this as an opportunity to grow as a person, while learning about new cultures. Experience and take in every moment. I have far too many regrets of things I wish I had tried while abroad!

DO: KEEP A JOURNAL – Every day will be packed with new adventures, acquaintances, and challenges and you’ll want to remember them. Even if it’s just a paragraph a day, keep track of these moments and the experiences that have impacted you most. It’s something you can share and will have forever.

Grace Quinn is a collegiate member at DePauw (Gamma). Learn more about Grace by clicking here.

A few additional traveling resources and options:

November 4, 2015

Collegiate Perspective: Balancing Being a Leader and Friend

With elections right around the corner for most chapters, we’re approaching the time of the year where a new executive board is stepping in. While we try our best to make transitions run smoothly, it’s hard to perfect these adjustments. One of the most difficult things to balance when holding a leadership role in your chapter is how to remain not only a good and dependent friend, but a strong leader as well. 

I’ve learned just from my experience with my chapter that the decisions you are required to make are not always easy ones. In the professional world or other organizations on campus, people are able to more easily put aside their differences and work together toward a common goal since their relationship didn’t originate from a friendship. Leading your sisters can be a different experience; as you step into your new role, they may forget that ‘friend’ is not the only role you play for them. 

So how do you do it then? 

The answer is that there is no right or wrong way to find the perfect balance. Everyone has a different perspective of how to do it successfully. Here is what some of the leaders of the Omicron chapter at Missouri had to say about it:

“I’ve had to make decisions that I didn’t want to make. But sometimes that’s what my job entails. At times you wonder if people are going to be upset with you as a result of them, but you know that every choice you make is in the best interest of the chapter.” –Ragin Dillon, Chapter President 

“I’ve learned that it helps to talk to my friends about the fact that  there is no exception to the rules right off the bat, that way they understand the impact of their actions… They should support me in what I’m doing.” – Gina Fasolo, VP of Campus Affairs 

“Your tone has a lot to do with it; you can be serious without being rude. The way you approach a situation is what makes the difference.”- Ashtyn Scruggs

If you catch yourself in a conflicted place while making a tough decision, all you have to do is the best you can, and learn how to balance your personal relationships with the responsibilities of your position. Remember to confide in your team when you’re struggling to find that balance. Sometimes all you need is the support of others while you are making the most of your leadership position.

Katelyn Pulio is a collegiate member at Missouri (Omicron). Learn more about Katelyn by clicking here.

October 28, 2015

Collegiate Perspective: Finding My Way

Throughout my collegiate experience I have made some important realizations, realizations that – along with support and advice from friends, family, professors and mentors – have helped me grow. Today I’d like to share a few tips I’ve implemented that are beneficial to any college student.

1. Eating the frog. In this context, the frog refers to the most dreadful or difficult task on your day’s to-do list. Making this the first task I work on makes me feel more accomplished and productive. Putting it off until the end of the day won’t benefit you. Ziglar says, “If you’ve got to eat a frog, sitting around looking at it doesn’t make it any better.”

2. Saving at least 10 percent, if not more. Build up your savings by taking 10 percent of your paycheck and depositing it into your savings account. That way, you’re well-prepared and less stressed in an emergency financial situation.

3. Learn to make one outstanding meal and one outstanding cup of coffee. No one will ever pass up a good home cooked meal or a greatly brewed cup of coffee. I learned to make great rosemary chicken with my special green beans!

4. Learn to articulate what you value in life and the qualities you value in other people. The ability to recognize what I find important and instilling those as a part of my core values has made me a more confident individual. Alpha Phi has played a huge part in helping me discover what I value in relationships. Being able to articulate this has allowed me to form new relationships while staying true to who I am.

5. Be able to defend your opinions. This is a lesson I learned early in college. Instead of regurgitating other’s opinions, do your research and find your own voice. People are more likely to listen to your opinions if they are truly your own, when you are able to elaborate on them and defend them with conviction.

6. Have some perspective. Being able to put yourself in other’s shoes and taking a moment to understand your peers is a commendable trait to have. We all come from different backgrounds and understanding that will help you with your relationships.

7. Weed out people that suck. Surround yourself with good company that makes you happy to be a part of this world. Be involved in their lives and they will want to be involved in yours.

I hope these realizations make an impact on your life like they have made on mine.

Darshana Panchal is a collegiate member at Creighton (Theta Delta) . Learn more about Darshana by clicking here.

October 26, 2015

On the Road: Packing list of qualities, skills, and items

While this just brushes the surface, here’s my attempt at a packing list of qualities, skills, and items I have found necessary for my year on the road as an ELC:

fLexibility – each new day brings its own unexpected challenges; travel schedules change, flights are unpredictable, and day to day life is different at each chapter you visit, but the unknown is what makes the job fun!

Energy Drinks & Emergen-C – actual all-nighters are the norm during recruitment season but make for the best laugh attacks and some of the best memories.  

Adventurous spirit – sometimes you may find yourself needing to get creative on how to reach your destination after a long day of delayed and cancelled flights.

Dry shampoo –travel days and recruitment week’s call for a little help freshening up! You never know who you might meet on the road; Robin Thicke might actually show up to Alpha Phi’s bid day.

Earplugs – you may be put up in a freshmen men’s residence hall where wrestling and ping pong tournaments are the norm at 2:00 a.m.  

Raincoat – you may be assigned to a project without a car in a city where it rains 140 days a year.  Thankfully, Salem, OR has allowed me to see the beauty and peacefulness of rainy days.

Self-motivation – ELCs have to muster up energy to crank out reports, weed through endless Basecamp emails, create workshop presentations, generate names for COB, and make hundreds of crafts no matter the day. Seeing your hard work pay off on bid day or witnessing a young chapter make strides make every effort completely worth it.

Hats - ELCs “wear many hats” – I’ve been a vocal coach, choreographer, motivational speaker, computer whiz, accountant, event planner, marketing director, photographer…to name a few.

vIsionary – chapters often narrow their focus in on the details of bid day decorations or the color of date dash t-shirts, so ELCs provide the unique big picture and fresh perspective to ensure all decisions are contributing to the chapter’s long term success. 

Piece of home – my mother sewed me a travel pillow on the way to the airport when I started in July and while I work diligently during most flights, that pillow and photos of family and friends from home comfort me when I need it most.

Chill pills – the perfectionist in me has had to learn that taking the frantic approach is never effective. Sometimes you have to take a step back, breathe, and laugh (especially when it starts raining during an outdoor preference ceremony and the PNMs are covering their heads with napkins). At the end of the day, everything falls into place and it all works out, maybe just not quite how you imagined it.

Open space – in your suitcase for the tons of t-shirts chapters generously shower you with and open space in your heart to welcome all the wonderful new people you befriend on the road.

Nap time –sometimes you get lucky and are sent to a school with a fellow consultant and instead of pulling all-nighters, you take turns taking naps to get in a few ZZZZZs. 

Starbucks giftcards –for whatever Starbucks obsession you may have. I consume an embarrassing amount of birthday cake pops – just ask the members at Linfield.

vUlnerability – waiting for a stranger at the airport, stepping into a house of unfamiliar faces, and taking the reins and offering insight to an established team can be scary, but breaking down barriers, being honest and real, and letting your true self shine is the first step to being welcomed into the chapter as one of their own.

Love of Alpha Phi – the one cool thing I have in common with every member, officer, advisor, volunteer, staff member and consultant I work beside and the one thing that will forever connect me to all of these incredible women.

Thick skin – when you travel alone it’s especially important to bounce back and keep a positive attitude when the going gets tough.

Adaptability – each campus and chapter brings with it its own unique culture. While my roots are in the Midwest, this job has forced me to adapt to a variety of schools and regions from large southern sororities to small Pacific Northwest liberal arts colleges to the high intensity of an Ivy League and each new place captures this Nebraska gal’s heart.

Notebook – to record meeting minutes, make to-do lists, but most importantly to document the special memories made.

These and many more are the reasons I get up every day, pack my life into a suitcase, and travel the country for the organization I love. 

Courtney Cosler (Theta Delta - Creighton) is a first year educational leadership consultant. Learn more about Courtney by clicking here.

Product Picks from the EO Staff: #SweaterWeather

October 21, 2015

Collegiate Perspective: How To Do It All and Not Be Stressed

When I started my first year at George Mason University I was eager to dive into various leadership roles head-first, like many other motivated collegians. I had never really been involved in high school and knew I wanted to make the most of my college experience. First, I joined Alpha Phi and applied for an appointed position within my chapter. Then, I helped launch a community service organization at my school. Eventually, I took on positions in Panhellenic and student government as well. I was addicted to leadership.

I found myself drowning in 18-credits of home work and stressed out helping with events for four different organizations. I was constantly trying to make sure everyone was happy, throwing my own mental well-being to the wind in order to meet deadlines. I put too much pressure on myself to be “the best”- without having a clear idea of what that was.

Eventually, I learned the power of time management and delegating tasks. Sometimes we think “Well if I don’t do it, somebody else won’t be able to do it right!” Well the truth is, we’re wrong. Asking your sisters and colleagues for help is never a bad thing. In fact, getting multiple opinions on a decision can give you many different perspectives and new ideas. There is no reason to purposely overwhelm yourself when you have friends who want to support you.

Time management is a valuable skill I’ve gained in college that I know I’ll take with me into my professional career. The most important aspect of managing your time in college is staying organized. Some tools that have helped me stay organized would be my (Lilly) planner, a calendar and my google drive. When you know about your commitments and responsibilities ahead of time, you can plan ahead and prioritize, stress free!

I also realized that sometimes we may come to a point where we cannot take on any more projects or tasks. Sometimes we just need to say, “I have too much on my plate”. We all want to be the best sisters we can be: serving on committees, holding positions, attending every event. But while we’re running a mile a minute we need to stop and prioritize.  As we balance school, internships, relationships, our chapter and other clubs, we must keep in mind our well-being for a healthy lifestyle. 

Now well into my senior year, I know I will never regret being so involved in my sorority and on my campus. I am still on the Executive Board of Alpha Phi, the Panhellenic Council, and student government; living proof that you can do it all and remain sane, if you stay organized, manage your time well and ask for help!

Caroline Whitlock is a collegiate member at George Mason (Eta Lambda). Learn more about Caroline by clicking here.

October 19, 2015

On the Road: Each new place is a new adventure

I started my ELC adventures with 20 of my soon to be closest friends almost three months ago on a summer day in Chicago. We trained together, soaked up all of the knowledge we were given and laughed a lot along the way. A couple weeks later it was time for us to start traveling and make a difference in Alpha Phi chapters across North America. I was nervous to start my adventure, and I wanted to make an impact on each chapter I visited. But what I didn’t realize is the impact those chapters would have on me.

My first stop was University of Alabama, where I got to help my biggest rival. Even though I will always be a Tiger at heart, T-town will now be a place that holds special memories. Next on the road would be Florida State, where we chanted Hottie Tottie and bonded over rain delays. At Iowa State we laugh about all of the corn, and watch Grey’s Anatomy together. Indiana State taught me that sometimes it is 40 degrees in September and it is always more fun to have late night talks than sleep. I became “wicked” cool at New Hampshire, chanting Hoorah for A Phi, and I will never forget the countless Taco Bell runs in Eastern Washington. 

Now as I sit and listen to the girls’ excitement of College Game Day at Utah and reflect on my experiences thus far, I am beginning to realize that Alpha Phi has set me up on one unique, never ending adventure. The initial path was laid as a Delta Tau founding chapter member, where my sisters and I (somewhat lost) built the beginning of a strong sisterhood at LSU. My fellow ELCs now serve as my compass, providing guidance and navigation through life’s unexpected twists and turns. And now I am in the midst of one crazy expedition. With each stop, I learn something new and create new memories. I have met so many amazing women along the way, each of whom has impacted me and contributed to my Alpha Phi adventure.

Calli Simoneaux (Delta Tau - LSU) is a first year educational leadership consultant. Learn more about Calli by clicking here.