How many times have you shared some news, good or bad, with a friend only to be met with an unexpected response from this person? If you are sharing good news, your expectation is your friend meeting you with just as much happiness and enthusiasm as you have when sharing the news. Sharing sad news, on the other hand, can be a little more tricky. Some people are SUPER uncomfortable when feeling that they need to console others.
I’ve heard people talk about how they are unsure about what the right thing to say to someone when the person begins to cry. No, do not pet them like a dog, don’t tell them to stop crying, and please do not tell them that they have no reason to cry. Tears are liquid emotions. We can cry tears of joy and sadness. So what would be an appropriate response to someone when you genuinely don’t know how to respond; sometimes the best thing we can do for a person is be silent.
Believe it or not, silence is so powerful it is used as a therapeutic intervention. Silence has many benefits: 1) It gives the listener time to listen, really listen without attempting to jump in to give a response 2) Because of its tendency to make a situation uncomfortable, people will open up more in order to fill the “quiet space” 3) it can never be misquoted 4) by your willingness to be silent, it will give the person speaking time to tell you what they are looking for in return 5) it provides a sense of safety, the person learns that they can talk to you without judgement and know they will be heard.
Many times are we so quick to jump into the conversation with our opinion that we miss what people are NEEDING to hear in response: support, reassurance, empathy, love, realistic feedback, etc. One of the few things that people need when speaking to you about matters of the heart is another opinion to wrestle with in their head. The outside world, the ones that do not know us at heart, have a field day every day giving their unsolicited opinion about our decisions. When we talk to a friend or loved one, it is not to get another opinion, it’s probably to get the support we have not gotten up to this point.
It will at first be difficult to put this concept into practice. The main thing that we will benefit from being silent is gaining a better understanding of the person speaking. No, it does not mean we agree with what they are saying but it can bring us to a place to understand how or why they are experiencing the feelings that they are experiencing, it’s called empathy (another post for another day). Think about it this way, if you feel that you must put in your two cents, your two cents is much more valuable if you are responding in a way that they can receive; the only way to do that is if you are silent long enough to hear their needs instead of rushing the process.
Job (let’s think bible Job not that place you think about quitting at least twice a month) definitely makes that top of the list as having the worst friends at listening. In all honesty, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar (Job’s friends) have gotten a bad reputation because they were not the most supportive friends a person could have in their life. They questioned what he had done to bring his misfortune on himself and basically told him to curse God and die.
Before we get to how they let him down, let’s talk about what they did right. You have to go all the way back to Chapter 2:13 (note: we’re in the book of Job, old testament) “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.” Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were at their best when they were quiet. They observed that Job’s suffering was too great for words and decided that silence was the best thing they could do to support Job. Do you know when people start to judge his friends; when they start talking! Take note, silence is powerful!
What’s the takeaway? There are times when being a good friend means being quiet. It’s okay just to sit and be present with each other. Truly present, not on your phone, not searching for the “right words” to say but being attentive and in tune with what your friend is saying. We can start putting this into practice this week. Try silence. See how much further you get with others by listening more.
P.S. Don’t forget to read, leave a comment, and share this post! Don’t be selfish with the goodies! Also, you can follow the blog’s Instagram page @roadtodestiny. The scripture from tonight comes from Job 2:13, New Living Translation. Photo by Kristina Flour.
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