womentalking

Giving each other the space to be authentic

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like there’s been a recent shift in the way that many of us talk to each other.

“Oooh, your kids are all in school full-time now – aren’t you so excited?

Or this one:

“Oh, you moved into a new house – aren’t you so happy?

We think that we’re asking people how they feel about a recent change or new development in their life, but really, we’re assuming how they feel, and asking them to confirm it.

“Aren’t you so __________?”

The problem is that sometimes, the assumption is incorrect.

For the two example questions above, I know that the answer I’m “supposed” to give is, “YES!” That’s what the other person is expecting to hear.

But most of the time, the real, honest answer to those questions is something more like this:

• Well, actually, it’s really complicated.

• I feel sorrow and grief and joy and hope.

• It’s so much harder than I thought it would be…yet it also feels so right.

• I feel deep loss and deep gratitude.

• I feel like I want to stay in bed with the covers pulled up over my head, and yet I want to be surrounded by everyone I love most dearly.

I often find myself at a loss for words when people ask me a question by assuming what the answer is. I believe that they really do have good intentions, and are attempting to relate to me, and express empathy. I get that, I do. And I can appreciate it.

In fact, I know I’ve been guilty of it myself. We often rush by each other, to and from school and church and the grocery, making time only for small talk and surface-level conversations.

Yet every time this happens, I’m faced with a dilemma. Should I be honest? How honest? Or should I give the pat answer that most people are expecting to hear?

Either way, I can say this much for certain: being in these situations has made me much more aware of the way that I speak to other people, and the assumptions that I make about their circumstances and feelings.

When I start out a conversation by assuming that someone is “so excited” or “so happy” or so anything at all, I’ve already created a barrier that might prevent him or her from feeling like they can actually be honest with me.

Instead, I can try to give people room to struggle and express doubts and fears, just with a simple change in my language.

“How are you feeling about having all your kids in school?”

Or this:

“Oh, you moved into a new house – how are you feeling about that? How is it going?”

I know we don’t always have time to get into the nitty-gritty details when we’re having a conversation with someone in passing. But if we can at least open a conversation with someone in a way that gives them space to be authentic, then the chances are so much better that they will feel truly heard, and truly loved, and that they have freedom to say, “You know what? It’s been pretty complicated. I’d love to catch up with you more about it later.”

Everyone wants to be truly heard and known. Let’s try to give each other space for that.

Join the Conversation
flower tree

Location matters. Community matters.

We’ve met a few “location-independent” people on our travels—usually singles, though there’s an occasional family—that doesn’t live anywhere in particular. They live where the wind takes them. Their work is done online, so they’re able to live out of their backpacks and move about the cabin indefinitely. Essentially, they do what we’re doing for the (read more…)

Join the Conversation
bread

The art of lingering

During the next three months, we’re all in this together—thinking about food, planning menus, coming up with guest lists, scheduling ourselves silly, spending too many hours on Pinterest for ideas on how to get the “best recipe” or plan the “perfect holiday party.” For me this year, I want my focus to be simpler, and (read more…)

Join the Conversation
movingboxes

Starting over. Again.

When I think about my Top Ten Least Favorite Things To Do, moving would make the list somewhere between “colonoscopy” and “ironing.” If ever there was motivator for simple living, it’s the act of packing up ALL of your things and then unpacking all of your things. I’ve moved twice in the past ten years (read more…)

Join the Conversation
unlikely friendships

Letting friendships develop, even when it doesn’t feel easy

We all sat around my living room, sharing vulnerably as we had been all summer, an unlikely group of friends, seemingly thrown together by divine hands– because how else would we have all ended up together? As the conversation turned to friendship, I began to see a trend, a sort-of truth emerging. It seemed like (read more…)

Join the Conversation