Their lack of understanding only grows in your silence.
As I watch my daughter work so hard to navigate the world of friendships and acceptance, I fear for her confidence and self-esteem. She keeps bouncing back but each day there are knocks.
I still remember some of the more brutal moments from school – and I created quite a few brutal moments for others as well – but have no recollection of those moments being combined with any kind of learning about how to express yourself openly or how to listen without judgment. By the time I was a teenager, I didn’t do either very well – in fact, I’m still learning how to do both – and silence remains the easier option.
But I think this sort of silence creates the perfect conditions in which to grow our shameful habits. I wonder how many of us would drink ourselves to sleep, eat until we can’t move or harm ourselves in even more obvious ways if we all felt safe enough to express ourselves and connected enough to listen to each other with curiosity and openness.
In the darkest times, nothing could be more soothing than feeling connected, loved, heard and understood but that’s when most of us stop talking. In doing so, we protect ourselves from the bad but also, paradoxically, from the good.
One day, I hope the new normal will be to teach these skills to parents, teachers, children, bosses, employees, politicians and everyone in between, to promote courage, vulnerability and understanding. Perhaps then, both our conversations and our silences will become more productive.
Any ideas for how to make that a reality?