Have you found yourself in situations when you just need to verbally dump your thoughts while the other person just listens? Talking out loud for another to hear, clearing the jumbled mess that resided in your head. It is liberating, calming, and sometimes shocking, fearful, and intimidating. Bottling up thoughts and experiences can do tremendous damage to ourselves while we are hoping to protect our hearts and shield others from our scars. Funny thing is, most of the time this is how we can heal; release the burden of our fears and stories in an attempt to illuminate the reality and begin the healing. So… while your catharsis continues what is the listener doing? Listening intently, supporting, encouraging the release of emotions and anger while holding a space of safety and calm... anything else? No doubt there is a bit of solution-oriented activity going on! If you are like me, I need to consciously bite my tongue and stay present to the listening since my natural reaction is to problem solve, find the best, approach from a new angle, and see the possibilities. So, you listen, with all the love you have, present, and sturdy. That is a beautiful gift to give… support. But when does this “support” become misconstrued as tacit agreement? What if you have a differing opinion and you care and are invested enough in this person to feel they deserve to know an alternative perspective? There is a fine line between active listening and passive agreement. You certainly don’t want your quiet listening to be misconstrued as condoning behavior but you also want to provide an outlet of safety.
Years back I remember asking my dearest friend Penny for her commitment, I told her I have lots of friends and most people take the safe route in communication as not to offend or push the other person away. My ask of her was to not do that, I wanted to always know I could count on her to tell it to me straight, whether I wanted to hear it or not, I asked her to show me what I couldn’t or did not want to see. I can’t tell you how important that is and how grateful I feel for having someone whom I know has only my best interest in mind, to be brutally honest, and share her ideas and unseen possibilities. Simply, I am asking Penny to engage me in active dialogue.
There seems to be a fine line between “supportive listening” and insinuating agreement. I certainly don’t have the answer but I do think loving honesty and untethered advice has a place in every relationship. Certainly there are times it is appropriate to say nothing and listen, swallow your pride and be a stable force for the other person. On the other hand, I am shocked by how this easily slips into supporting dishonesty, lack of integrity, and a disillusioned behavior by not voicing your perspective out of fear. Is it possible that by not saying anything we are adding to the slow erosion of our community’s moral character? Again, a fine line that I believe we all have a responsibility to uphold. Yes, your words may rock the boat, yes, it may not feel comfortable but to stand in a place of honesty, integrity, and your truth is not always easy. Remember, you are adding your perspective because you care and love the other person. I am saddened by those that watch on the sidelines and say nothing… “as to not offend”. While this may be a generational perspective or family dynamics at play, I believe we are more capable, and all have a community responsibility to hold each other accountable.
Our children are watching our every move, be conscious of what your words, or lack of words and actions are saying and teaching. Empower yourself and your children to elevate others to have the difficult conversations, see the potential in everyone, and expect excellence from each other.
Decide; are you part of the solution, or part of the problem?