One thing we don’t do well as a culture is witness. Witnessing is being present with someone and allowing them to have their thoughts and feeling without feeling like you have to respond.
Silence gives people space to hear their own thoughts. A thought in your head isn’t the same thing as a thought that comes out of your mouth or onto paper. Once it’s out in the world, it becomes a tangible thing.
Giving someone your presence allows them to feel heard. So often we get loud and outrageous when a whisper will do because we all need to be heard.
Keeping your thoughts to yourself validates for the other person that it’s okay to think what they think and feel what they feel. It also gives you space to be with your thoughts so that each of you has your own untainted experience. Since you all have different motivations and growth areas, this is a win/win.
Listening fully gives you a chance to see yourself. We often are blind to our own faults, but can see them well enough in someone else. That can be a doorway to knowing yourself and growing beyond limitations. Listening can also break down misconceptions. Maybe your way of seeing things isn’t the only way.
Sometimes we’re tempted to rescue someone from their feelings or tell them that their thinking is wrong. When we simply witness, we give them the space to be where they are, learn as they are ready to learn, and grow at their own pace. Struggle is a great teacher. Sometimes taking the lesson away is not helping. There is another issue with this. We can sometimes assume that we know what is best for someone else. This could be entirely untrue. So wait to be invited to help.
However, use discernment. I’m not saying that we sit by and watch someone drown. It’s more about believing in someone’s power to make life changes and letting them prove you right.
We can be hesitant to open ourselves up to an audience because we are afraid of being wounded, rejected, laughed at or judged. In a culture that posts videos of people on social media so that we can publicly humiliate them, it’s a valid fear.
Some people may laugh at you or judge you. A coaching client recently told me that one of the most important things he’s learned in the coaching process is that someone else’s view of him has nothing to do with reality. When you can get there, you’re free. So choose freedom.
I believe many of us long for a safe place to just be. When you do that for someone else, you teach them how to do it. So maybe, little by little, we become a culture of witnesses instead of judgers. Someone’s got to go first. Why not you?