Aug 222019


This post is to outline some experiences I had with communication, what I learned, and potential opportunities for system improvement.

Communicating Needs

I experienced burnout soon after beginning to work with Athens’ Own because I failed to communicate that my needs were not being met. I became overwhelmed by my lack of time management, major lifestyle changes from moving to Broadwell Hill, time-constrained work, ambiguity and large number of suggested assignments/ initiatives from Constantine, and the sometimes heated discourse between Con and Kathy. Though it would have been better and potentially easier to share my feelings, I avoided it because I knew it would be uncomfortable for me. I let the stress build until it overwhelmed me, and I needed a break. Athens’ Own saw this need, and offered comprehensive health services to help me. The Safety Officer (Kathy) assisted me in developing time management and communication skills by creating accurate time estimates, block scheduling, and making SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Related, Time-Based) requests. Athens’ Own position on health services also empowered me to obtain other help for medical issues, and develop a better understanding of my health. Assignments and duties were put on hold until Kathy and I felt I was ready.

What I learned:

Before working with AO, I did not really possess useful tools for time management and communication. They are two weak links between me and my holistic goal that I continue to strengthen. I found block scheduling useful in planning and organizing my AO and personal activities. I still struggle communicating when I do not want to or cannot do what someone may be requesting of me, but I have realized the importance of attempting to communicate my needs. I find the SMART tool useful in attempting to clarify what is being asked of me, especially with Constantine.

When monitoring whether I’m on track with my holistic goal, it is important to be honest and compassionate with myself to acknowledge if my needs are being met. I did not do this before my burnout. I now check-in to see how I feel, journal, and use the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) method as monitoring tools for my needs, to see what can be improved, and to celebrate any success. Kathy introduced Nonviolent Compassionate Communication (Needs Inventory; Feelings List), but I did not see its use in communicating my needs with myself and others until recently. It provides terms to describe one’s needs and when they are or are not being met. This and other experiences have reinforced that it is much easier for others to meet my needs if I first acknowledge and communicate them.

Feedback and Listening

What happened:

I did not give enough feedback to Con and Kathy to meet their needs of being heard, which caused tension and miscommunication.

An AO business partner needed assistance in a situation that could have been less severe with better communication and feedback. 

What I learned:

Feedback allows someone to know I’m listening, and limits miscommunication by reflection of what I hear back to them. It’s where the important balance of clarity, succinctness, honesty, compassion, and non-judgment in communication is heightened. Balance does not mean these parts should always be equal, but one part should not be forgotten in light of the other(s). Feedback without this balance can more easily make communication counterproductive. Attempting to be succinct without remembering clarity can lead to excluding necessary information. Honesty without compassion can more easily lead to hurt feelings or anger.

Two feedback tools to help meet Con and Kathy’s need to be heard are active listening – asking questions, clarifying, listening to understand; and passive listening – seeking to understand and reflecting the idea back to the speaker. Both have helped change my perspective of how Kathy and Con view their sometimes heated discourse; whereas it comes off to me as angry and interrupting, to them it is passionate and the process other intellectual circles use to debate. By reflecting back these thoughts to Kathy, her and I have agreed there may be a need to address how it comes off to future interns.

Assisting the previously specified AO business partner through their situation increased my knowledgebase and helped me develop a host of skills: creativity, professional attitude, interpersonal relationship building, self-direction, organization, an increasingly holistic view of natural and human systems, ability to motivate others to act, capability of organizing the efforts of others, and the ability to function in a dynamic team. It also increased my awareness of the cooperative systems within the Athens community, and respect of the cultures of rural Ohio and Appalachia. Lastly, it emphasized the importance of feedback for resilience. A breakdown in communication from lack of honest feedback had occurred and is still being repaired with this business partner. By strengthening our communication, we strengthen their business, AO, and the community. Simplifying and separating requests, and waiting for a response to one before asking another seems to improve the quality of communication with them. Balancing compassion and honesty has been important when addressing issues that arose. I felt offering positive reinforcement by celebrating successes improved communications and attitudes in this situation, and other AO team relations. Sometimes it was simply thanking someone for keeping their word, or accomplishing a difficult task.


I think it would have been useful for me to have an extended orientation time, before introducing regular AO/ BWH duties and assignments. For me, it would have been useful to include:

  • Team members write down needs that could involve/affect others
    • Share with team
    • Faster acquaintance of team needs
    • Opportunity for intern to consider own needs
  • Emphasis on communicating needs even if uncomfortable; non-judgment policy
    • Nonviolent Compassionate Communication
  • Completion of Holistic Management Handbook and drafted holistic goal
    • More effective to me if completed at BWH, while immersed
      • Greater ability to clarify concepts
  • AO Intern Handbook received and discussed
  • Required communication procedures introduced
    • Regular/daily situation reports
    • notification of schedule changes asap
    • If team meetings will occur
      • Agendas
      • 24 hour inclusions, printouts
    • Feedback
      • Active/reflective listening
      • Concepts being practiced
    • Nonviolent Compassionate Communication
  • co-living responsibilities introduced
  • clarification and emphasis of AO search and development of “transformation agents”
  • clarification of methods of discourse between Con and Kathy
    • emphasize not arguing or angry
    • hand signals

For me, it may have decreased stress to select one or two interests to focus on, instead of everything interesting that came up.

I found a useful reminder in a document from Alyse Carter, the former Internship Coordinator: “Don’t assume anyone else knows everything about anything. Ask that others show you the same respect, listening skills, patience, and humility that you show them.”

Apr 092013

Your Internship Log : What is it? Why do we want our interns to write them? What is the purpose?

Your internship log fulfills at least three important purposes:

1. Tracking. It is a record of your internship progress. Your log can help you remember things you have already learned, reflect on things you want to learn more about, and keep track of what you have and haven’t done. If you are working on an internship for college credit, many universities require a written log just for this purpose, so it can help you with your school requirements as well.

2. Feedback. Through the logs, we can evaluate concepts you are understanding well, and identify ones which need worked on. If you are assigned a certain task to help you understand a concept, your log should reflect on not just what you did that day, but how it relates to your learning objectives. It helps both us and you understand where you are. We can see areas or ideas that you are making good progress on, and/or areas you need to improve, and then we don’t waste time repeating the same lessons, but rather we can use your log to stay on track and keep moving forward. The logs are on the website in blog form because that makes it easy for us to comment and give you feedback, directly on a specific log entry.

3. Community outreach. The question: “What does Athens’ Own do?” comes up often in conversation with community members. Your logs will help illustrate some of the actions we are working on, as well as vividly illustrate how we are attempting to educate and train you for future opportunities. The community can also see the feedback process, and other people looking for educational models can clearly see how we use our logs to work towards our goals.


How to write a log:
Although each person has their own style and format preferences, here are a few things to keep in mind when writing a log:

1. The audience. Keep the above purposes in mind. Try to write in a way that is as transparent and clear as possible, so that the Athens’ Own team, community, and distant readers can understand what and why you are writing. There is so much happening and so much connected to each small action, that there is no reason why your log should be just a recount of the day’s events. Think about what you want future readers to glean from your experience and write to them.

2. Timeliness: We work at the speed of business and the speed of resilience, which is nearly instant. Please don’t wait a week to write a log. By then, it’s likely the information is out of date. Ideally, you should post a log when you get home from working with Athens’ Own, or even DURING your workday, while it is happening, if you can.

3. Concepts and connectedness. If all of our interns wrote logs which simply stated: “This is what I did today”, we would have a lot of repetitive information, and not much interesting or visible progress. Try to connect the small actions you did today to the bigger picture, the concepts behind what you are doing, and what you have done before. If, for example, one day you do extensive work with a mentor to learn about Holistic Management, and the next day you package coffee, see if you can draw in some insight into the coffee packaging from what you learned about Holistic Management. Or, you could think ahead and speculate as to how a future project or learning session could enhance your understanding of the coffee process.

4. Do your best. This is your opportunity to demonstrate not only your writing skills, but your ability to organize information, present it, and motivate others to get involved with Athens’ Own. We take the logs very seriously, and we hope you will too.


5. Write the date and author at the beginning of your log entry.