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No early dismissal today

You know that feeling you get when you're trying to say something to a friend or loved one and they hurry you along saying something like, "I know, I know. The same thing happened to me," and they go on to talk about themself. Or, worse, they might say you've told them this before and they know how it ends, so can we move on, please. If it feels dismissive, you're right.

To be sure, there are relaxed, free-wheeling, friendly conversations that run all over the map, and everyone in the group is enjoying the banter and the easy flow. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about how it feels to be disregarded, passed over, shut down, second-guessed, gas-lighted -- in short, how it feels to be dismissed.

Bad. It feels bad.

So don't do it. Right -- this is about YOU doing this to others. We've all experienced it and we know how bad it feels. So turn this around. Don't do it to your friends and beloveds. Don't do it to colleagues and strangers. Don't do it to children and old people. Don't be that person who makes someone else feel terrible.

Instead, listen. Listen in silence. Give someone the space and the time they need to gather their thoughts -- or maybe their courage -- so they can get at what they want to say. Very often we need that. Our first sentence or two may just be a toe testing the waters. Is it safe for me to keep going, I wonder? Will I be able to get this out? Can I articulate my feelings? You have felt this way. Recognize it, recognize yourself, your struggle, in others.

Listening is one of the hardest things to do. Do it.

Don't problem-solve (until asked). Don't blame. Don't hug (unless asked). Don't even speak until it's clear that you have permission and then, just paraphrase back what you think you heard and let the other person keep talking. Listen again. Tread lightly. Listen deeply. Maybe that's all that's needed.

Whatever is needed, with love, with trust, with time, you'll get there together.


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