Have you ever wanted to talk to someone without the pressure of a two-way conversation? I’ll admit, I could be a better listener. Sometimes, I give advice when, perhaps, all I need to do is offer a hug, a smile, or an, I love you. Maybe, all that’s necessary is a promise to pray.
Recently, I wrote a post about diversity. I mention this because, sometimes, as we are listening to a friend share his feelings, what he is saying about a given subject does not match how you or I view the subject. By subject, I am talking about anything from how people handle grief, to how they raise their children, to views … the list could go on and on. What if your friend shares how he’s reacted to one of these topics and it differs greatly from how you would react? Maybe you believe in giving a warning when your child breaks a house rule, but your friend has grounded his son for an entire month for coming home late one time. In situations like this, it is easy to feel the need to share our thoughts with the intention of shedding some light on a subject—helping that friend see a different perspective so as to change the thought process and, thus, change the situation for the better. This is a delicate place to sit no matter what side of the conversation you are on, especially if the foundation of the friendship is new.
In my experience, when I share something personal and do not wish for a response, I try to remember to begin by saying as much. I might say something like, “I just need someone to listen,” or “I could really use a good sounding board.” The friend then knows my expectation. But, there are times when saying what you need just isn’t enough. After sharing, your dear friend may not be able to sit still with a nod or an “I understand.” What you thought would lift a weight, suddenly becomes a discussion that leads to hurt feelings and a shift in relationship.
I would love to say I know exactly how to fix this, but I don’t. This post ends with a question, not a solution. What is the best way to mend a fence such as the one I write about? Or, what is the best way to avoid such a situation in the first place? I am sure there’s more than one answer. I’d love to hear from you. If you have a good solution, please leave it in the comments below.