Am I being listened to?
I find myself pondering this concept while an ear that was supposed to be listening transformed into a mouth that won’t stop talking. Do we really desire to hear one another as strongly as we ourselves want to be heard.
It occurred to me one day. It’s not always that I’m bad at vulnerability but that most people are bad at allowing real space for it.
After years of being that space for others, I’ve come to terms with speaking and not being heard. Sticking a toe out to test the water of my vulnerability only to say “OH SHIII!!” when I get burned by the reality that no room has been made for me.
I’m a sounding board to many. And it’s a beautiful gift that I relish in. I am given the curiosity and the demeanor to comfort others in their openness. As we all know, openness can be hard as hell. So it’s rewarding when others trust me with hard emotions and I watch as they soften in that trust when being open with me. Sadly, those who need me as this space are also the ones who don’t know how to be one themselves.
The examples I’ve encountered seem innocent by nature but in practice have only served to fortify my armor.
I ask questions to learn people not just out of curiosity but with the intention to learn the entirety of the person. This includes their past, present, and futures. Whatever childhood wounds, current struggles, and future dreams that may hold. I explore with care. Most importantly, I listen with the intent to learn thoroughly.
In conversation, many love being given the opportunity to speak, to be seen, and heard without ever giving the fair chance for the opposing party to have the same.
My struggle with vulnerability stems from suppressing all that which never received proper space to be expressed. If you ask me a sensitive question understand that in that simple question I have to first fight with myself to be open, to get raw, and to be seen.
When you choose to cut in the middle of what to you seems like a simple explanation, project your thoughts, and then refocus the attention back onto you…I will cease being open. You’ve let me see there is no space here for me; to you I am just your sounding board. Your mirror. Not a separate entity that possesses their own truths and scars.
And boy do I have scars.
We assume we know where someone’s open conversation is going so we stop listening. But I never take the thing someone initially says in a vulnerable conversation as gospel; I think of it more as a book cover summary, it reveals a little truth but with time and attention the full personal truth will begin to reveal itself.
Page by page, as the conversation blooms with their trust in being heard. Once people see they have the space they will gladly open. We are a space starved world, needing the opportunity to effectively be vulnerable in our truths. I am this space yet, I still starve for it often.
I am not just your sounding board though I may be the only real one you may have. Ask yourself, are you the safe space you seek? When your sounding board in your life needs the space you’ve grown use to, can you share it? Do you listen, intently to learn and not to project? Not to assume but to see what’s there? Are you a sounding board?
It’s clear that there are those who will never be able to be to me what I am to them; this is what makes it special to be a sounding board. However, I do believe there are more out there who can improve their ability to be a safe space with more active listening and less talking. Many who can use their energy in efforts of truly seeing not projecting. Being a sound board is often a selfless act.
I’m not just your sounding board, I’m like you…I need space too.
Follow LBF on Instagram @lets_build_futures or writer @Kantoinette_theblogger