I am reading Brene Brown’s book, “I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t)”. Absolutely amazing. I just came across the chapter where she talks about reaching out in our grief and shame. She talks about how we can respond when someone is reaching out to us. This is so greatly needed, as often we humans fumble around in complete awkwardness when someone is expressing such emotions. The words that exit our mouths often come out in sentences such as these:
“Don’t worry. It’ll get better”
“You’re way too sensitive”
“God will make it all work for good” (insert me wanting to strangle the person here)
“Oh that’s nothing! Listen to what happened to ME! (they carry on with their own story)
DOH! We don’t want to respond this way, do we? Ever say anything completely stupid and wish you could take it back? I got to experience the many stupid things people can say when my Dad and Grandma passed away. I found that people were very uncomfortable with me expressing my grief. Their discomfort made it hard to work through grief. Instead of comfort, I felt like my emotions made me some sort of mutant. Have you ever felt the same?
Here are some suggestions that will help you navigate through the uncertainty and be able to truly connect with someone who needs you.
1. Be a listener. Avoid jumping in with your two cents. Hear them completely out, even through pauses. Wait to be sure they have been able to truly express themselves. Don’t look at your watch, your phone, or anyone else in the room. Give them your whole attention, communicating with them how important their feelings and words are to you. Don’t worry about trying to understand.
2. Be supportive. This is usually where dumb words come out of our mouths. We become overly concerned with wanting to say the right thing that we miss it. Don’t worry about finding the perfect cliche. Being supportive doesn’t have to be shown through words. It can also mean respecting what they are saying even if you don’t agree.
3. Be comfortable. This can be especially difficult if the person confiding in you is struggling with something you can’t possibly understand or conceive yourself ever experiencing. This is when body language becomes very important. Breathe deep. Don’t gasp or jump back. Be at ease.
4. Be sensitive. Remember that we all see life through our own lenses. Before stating your own opinions, try to see what lense they are looking through and respond through their lense. Don’t brush off how they are feeling with statements such as; “It’ll get better, just wait.”, or, ”This is God’s will.”
5. Be honest. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I have no idea what to say, but I truly want to be here for you. Help me understand.”
6. Be informed. Be sure to get the facts before you state personal opinions. If you don’t know much about what they’re going through, do some research.
7. Be strengthening. Boost their worth. If you’re going to say something, make sure they leave the room feeling better than they did when they came in.
If we want to live in a culture where vulnerability is welcome then we need to be sure we are able to take it when it comes at us. Vulnerability is threatened every time we shame the person who is confiding in us.
What are some other things that could be added to the list that someone would need to feel supported?