I saw a magnet that said “I’m sorry I slapped you, but you wouldn’t stop talking and I panicked”. Yikes. Sounds harsh, and certainly not subtle. But I want to speak to the subtle part of that message. Some people like to talk… a lot; and some people are listeners. But EVERYONE wants to be heard and understood.
It sounds so easy. Just let someone talk; air their thoughts; feel heard. But it’s not so easy! We want to show we get it, so what do we tend to do? We interrupt with our own thoughts; we cut off the person; we relate something we experienced that may be similar; and we try to comfort by offering a silver lining. All of this tends to fall flat, and leaves the person feeling deflated. Sitting with someone in their discomfort, their pain, their truth ain’t easy! Practice, practice, practice. Offering your silence is a gift like no other.
So consider this: what gets in your way of simply sitting with the person, remaining attuned and attentive?
Do you think the person expects something from you? Are you uncomfortable with what is being shared?
Is it stirring up feelings in you - sadness, anger, identification? Is it hard to sit with their feelings? How are you at handling your own strong feelings?
Holding - and I mean emotional holding - is so powerful. It requires sitting with our own discomfort in order to be there for the other person. So first, identify what’s uncomfortable for you - and then work on managing that.
Check out this discussion in full on the WWDMD episode #14 entitled “The Art of Empathy and Silence”