It’s risky to trust. But I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.
If you relax and are yourself around me—if only a little bit—that trust is a gift. It’s a foray into exposure, like the way I dip my toes into warm pedicure water before I commit to the whole foot. Lobster feet are never what I had in mind. And a lobster blush doesn’t do much for my face, either.
It’s not easy to take off my masks. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m wearing one. Or two. And if I give it a shot only to see that familiar “You’re Such An Idiot” look on my confidant’s face, chances are I’ll put that disguise back on with superglue.
We’re not very good listeners, most of us. I’m not talking about the actual listening part as much as the necessary shutting up part where I let you talk and drain off whatever is going on in your life without judging or rescuing you. It’s my opportunity to say with my body language that I’m a safe person for you to talk to while you sort it all out. It’s a gift to you of respect.
Listening is tricky. Good versions of it are skillful. And when you risk talking to me you are saying you believe, as you tell me your story, that I will be careful with your heart. That I will let you use your own words. Trust assumes I can hear you out without diverting you to a side issue that leaves you feeling misunderstood or interrupted. And it says that when I summarize back to you what I heard you say, that you are the authority on how you feel and I won’t defend what I thought I heard you say.
Trust asks me to listen. It does not give me permission to try to fix you. A skilled listener knows you can discover your answers and helps you believe that, too.
In their book Can You Hear Me Now?*, Dr. Dallas and Nancy Demmit point out that “through listening, you can also invite others to listen to you so that you have a safe place to discover and receive God’s healing touch, too. We need each other.” They say that through listening you can:
· Reduce stress
· Show love
· Minimize misunderstanding
· Relieve anger, fear, loneliness and pain
· Clarify direction
There have been few women in my life who know how to listen while simultaneously making me feel accepted and validated. There have been multitudes of others who have sent me home after ‘heart to hearts’ with bruises. Sadly, I’m sure I’ve done the same. Usually it’s unintentional and from a genuine motivation to help. The problem is when I, as a listener, try to fix someone who just needs to be heard, my savior imitation just judges them as more broken than me. But how can I possibly know what will make another person heal? At what point have I lived in their skin, suffered their wounds, worn their scars?
Most of the time what others need is for me to put my own agenda aside, save my stories for my blog, and just listen. That’s when the magic happens. When people feel genuinely heard, they begin to genuinely see, and healing isn’t far behind.
Who knew I could accomplish so much by saying so little?
He who has ears to hear, let him be listening and let him consider and perceive and comprehend by hearing. Matthew 11:15
*Can You Hear Me Now? Copyright 2003, by Dallas and Nancy Demmit, Gilbert, Arizona
(Photo courtesy of vagawi's photostream, flickr.com)