A better listener can change the world

By Klara Woodruff - Staff Reporter

Luis Ortega wants people to be uncomfortable.

Speaking at Highline last Wednesday, during Martin Luther King Jr. week, Ortega said you're not really listening unless you're uncomfortable. And, he added, everyone needs to listen.

The theme of the week was "Fear, Falsehood and freedom: Where Do We Go from Here".

Ortega's talk which he titled "The Other Me" touched on pushing yourself to really listen for the greater good of humanity.

Ortega is a social entrepreneur and professional storyteller. He came to the United States illegally at the age of 13 from Mexico.

His senior year he told his high school counselor that he was in the country undocumented. She told him she could not help him because people like him didn't go to college.

Ortega did not let that stop from earning a political science degree from The University of Washington.

Ortega connected his experiences to the week's theme and talked about the radical act of listening.

Ortega talked about human connection being a rarity in this day and age.

"You should pursue conversations that make you uncomfortable," Ortega said as he encouraged everyone in the room to participate in an exercise.

Ortega said he wanted everyone to stand up and put their hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them.

Nervous energy coursed through the room as most of the people complied with the task.

As Ortega told humorous stories to demonstrate the true power of listening, the atmosphere in the room went from uncomfortable to united.

Use empathy to make the world a better place, Ortega said.

A conversation can only truly happen when both parties feel worthy of that conversation.

When you step in to someone else's shoes, you bring your bias with you, Ortega said.

"I am not asking you to step into my shoes, I am asking you to embrace the connection of me and those around you," he said.

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