Thank goodness we don’t walk around with a sticker on our forehead, as some of our stories are truly too private to share. And there are both the pros of when we share and the cons of when we don’t. But when we come with the perspective that everyone has a story--some sad and heart wrenching, others joyful—we will have more compassion when we meet them. For example, when an extrovert meets an introvert. The introvert might find the exchange challenging, while the extrovert might wonder why the other person seems so anxious.
What we need to keep in mind is that no story is more important than another. We cannot fully comprehend another person until we understand where they are coming from, and this is usually done through the sharing of stories and experiences, which takes time. Time is often the part we don’t have or are unwilling to give.
A perfect example is the #metoo movement where slowly but surely stories of harassment are trickling out through social media and other venues. You might wonder why it takes some women years to come forward. I believe it takes time for a person to reach a point in life where they find the courage to share their story. Often, they become willing to do so because another courageous person takes the lead and says “no more.”
For the person telling their story, there is a weight lifted through the act of opening up and telling their story.
For the listeners, we can only imagine how hard it is for these women to relive these awful memories. A mode of empathy opens up where we suddenly feel and understand more. We seem to recognize ourselves in the stories that are being told, making us able to respond to these vulnerable stories by telling our own.
Vulnerability for me is the key to open communication, because without it the listener is not touched. It is harder and harder in today’s world to be that vulnerable. But when you open up that “can of worms,” so to speak, you not only empower yourself, but you also give hope to many others.
The next time you meet someone new, remember that the reaction of the person is based on their story, their previous experiences, which have nothing to do with you but are based on their life’s story. Cut them a bit of slack and don’t judge or react but take the time to truly listen as they might give you the hope that you were looking for in your life!