This thread has stimulated my emergence from the land of the lurkers.
Sherri, thanks for getting is started. Lon, thanks for encouraging
participation. In LO11831 JC Howell asks a great question:
>A poor, albeit well-meaning, response to genuine openness can appear
>as an attack to the person opening
>How can we best respond to such openness, have a meaningful interchange,
>and leave the other person trusting
>us in the aftermath?
I have had the displeasure of being the "other person" that JC mentions,
and have felt much worse after opening up than I did while I kept my
emotions boiling inside. I have made several unsuccessful attempts as a
listener, to respond to others' openness, but I am also proud to say that
I've had some successes.
I will share, from the heart, one such experience that others on the list
may have struggled through. My father was killed in a car accident when I
was 10 years old. Being only 10, I didn't exactly understand all of my
emotions. When I first opened up, I erupted like a volcano -- a lot of
noise, debris, and shaking. The typical response from family and friends
at this troubling time in my life, "Let me know if there's anything I can
do..." For those who have lived through the tragedy of losing a loved
one, you've probably heard this too many times to count. For those that
have not lived through this tragedy, please don't respond to the grieving
with this phrase. It's empty and shows little real concern for the other
person. It is passive, not active. It puts the burden to act upon the
person who already feels overwhelmed. I actually took it as an attack. I
got defensive and angry. Another old saying that shuts me down in a
nanosecond: "I know how you feel." Well, NO YOU DON'T. NOBODY knows how
I feel, because it's ME. That's why I'm talking. If you knew how I felt,
then I wouldn't need to open up, now would I? And I probably won't open
up to you again.
IMHO, which has been formed from my personal experiences, the best way to
respond when someone opens up is to treat the openness just like you would
any other interesting heart-felt human communication. Just say, "Tell me
more, I don't understand what you're going through." It works with
discussions about loved ones, jobs, books, stocks...just about anything.
It is active, and it turns the listener into a stakeholder in those
emotions. It demonstrates an open-ended interest in someone's inner
thoughts and feelings. This response comes with no limitations or
By sincerely asking the person to "tell me more," you show a REAL interest
in the other person. You may think that this response might cause more
pain, but the opposite is true. If the person is beginning the process of
opening up, you can bet that s/he has a lot more emotion inside...just
like a volcano. It may in fact become more uncomfortable for you, the
listener, than for the person who's opening up. It can be hard work.
That's the risk you must take, if you are to encourage openness. Some
people can't handle it. They're afraid of the unknown power that is
inside the volcano.
I can handle it. Please, tell me more...
Business Systems Consultant
WW Grainger, Inc.
Think and learn, learn and think.
"James F. Kutzer" <email@example.com>
Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <firstname.lastname@example.org> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>