When we answered her email asking if we would hear her story, we listed all the ways we could listen – in person, over the phone, via Zoom, through Facebook private messaging, WhatsApp, and texting. Her reply was this:
I’ve decided that initially I would like to just communicate via email. I’m not sure if it will even go any further than that. I decided against Zoom to start because the things I have to say are so awful and I’ve never told anyone most of it. I think I would try to make you like me on Zoom, and if I did that, I would not be able to tell the truth. I’ve tried writing all these things down before, but it does no good to just tell it to myself. I’m not sure I’ll be able to tell it all in one email, without boring you to death, but I will start this way. A little later. I’m terrified of putting all this in writing for someone else’s eyes. But it is so ironic that I found out about you now, because this is something I need so badly now at a time when I’m doing a great deal of self-examination.
Thanks again for your patience with me.
Her self-awareness was insightful, her insight clear, her clarity strong.
She needed a safe space. To feel comfortable. To open up. To tell the truth. To not be judged. To begin to heal.
If email was the way for her to do it, we obliged. That’s what Someone To Tell It To does. Our teams of listeners create the space for those who need to know that in telling their stories we will neither run away nor condemn nor chide.
So we listened to her via email, giving her the space to tell her story in great detail the way she felt safest to tell it best and tell it as completely as she could. We responded with encouragement and reassured her in email responses that she was accepted, valued, and worthy of others’ love. No matter what happened to her and no matter how she may have responded to what happened. We reminded her that she didn’t deserve what was done and said to her, that wounded her so acutely and deeply. She was articulate and eloquent, and vulnerable and raw in pouring it out. We helped her to feel safe enough to get it out after holding it in and feeling unworthy of love and acceptance all of her life.
We listened from a place of respect, of value for her, and of love.
And now, several years later, she wrote to us again saying she was ready to meet us now:
I’d love to schedule that long overdue lunch we’ve talked about for eons!
So we met, and it was a glorious meeting. For three hours we talked and talked and listened and laughed and connected so deeply and beautifully. We are working on getting another lunch on the calendar again. What a joy seeing her face-to-face was! What a day to celebrate!
We can’t wait to do it again.
We listened with respect, valuing, and love. And it gave her the safety to finally be ready to meet.
We know that’s what all of us need to truly unburden ourselves. Respect, valuing, and love. Vulnerability in safe spaces is where an overwhelming weight begins to be lifted, where light begins to return to the dark corners of our spirits and minds. We know it works. We’ve seen it happen. We’ve felt it ourselves when we have been safe to share, too.
Most of us, most of the time, are too fearful to share with vulnerable openness. We, too, want to be liked. We are afraid to tell the deepest truths about our thoughts and our actions. In providing a safe space, we give permission to be open, honest, and real. We do the work of healing spirits and minds – of lives – when we allow another to be emotionally naked and unashamed.
Ask yourself how you create safety for others to share without shame or hiding or fear. And it’s not merely the medium or setting in which we meet others to listen. But it’s also the demeanor we present, the attitude we show, the genuineness we express. It’s exuding warmth and interest and care. It’s about not being distracted, but focusing on the person as if they are the most important person in the world during that time.
Each are intangible gifts. But they are profound gifts, indeed.
And if we create the space for the magic of listening to happen, we can be certain it will.
This is the second in a series of six statements about the values and objectives of Someone To Tell It To’s listening, training, and educational programs, in the weeks to come. Living these values is how we are helping the world to listen.