No one has ever said that to me!
Recently, I’ve been getting to know new friends (always a lovely experience) and I am reflecting on how we use stories to convey powerful messages of who we are to the other person (our new friend).
My friend was sharing a very difficult time in their life recalling a series of significant events in short succession. Starting with a divorce, then losing their mother and ending up in hospital with a sudden and serious illness. When she finished speaking I said, “That must have been a very traumatic time for you”.
I noticed my surprise using the word “must ” in my response to her. I’m usually much more tentative when checking my understanding of a person’s experience. In this instance it seemed to me how obviously traumatic that time in her life must have been and reflected that back to her.
As Powell says, “I will have to rephrase what you have said, and check it out with you to make sure that what left your mind and heart arrived in my mind and heart intact and without distortion”…
My surprise moved to curiosity when she said, “No one has ever said that to me – thank you for acknowledging what I went through. She was deeply moved recounting how for 5 years everytime she shared that story no one had ever acknowledged and validated her experience.
Her grateful reaction was another example of what I believe we all seek and yearn – to be heard and understood, to have our experiences acknowledged and validated.
Kate Murphy in her book, “You’re Not Listening” states, “When you listen and really “get” what another person is saying, your brain waves and those of the speaker are literally in sync”.
I wonder why we don’t do this more often? Why do people tend to feel alone in their experience despite recounting their story over and over again?
I believe one reason is many people fear acknowledging and validating someone’s traumatic experience in case it may upset them.
My experience and the research says the opposite is more true. When people have their traumatic experiences validated and understood they feel connected to you, they feel less alone.