While watching my son play in the yard with the neighborhood kids, I received a call from an old friend whom I had not spoken with in a very long time. He described his life now and what he had been through the past couple of years. Being the kind hearted listener that I am, I reminded him that I will always listen without judgement anytime he is willing to talk. He paused and then, in kindness, said, “I know you understand me, James, and you may have been ready to listen, but I wasn’t in a place to tell.”
This was a fantastic reminder to me that timing involves both parties. Being someone who can offer a safe, judgement free space and an ear to listen, with a focus on understanding, is only one part of the equation. The other person has to be ready. What someone needs in order to be ready to tell you what is happening on their side can be varied and even tenuous.
When we offer a patient ear, we may need to practice a level of patience that transcends our normal conversational expectations. We may need to give time. Real time. More than we think is appropriate based on our own limited understanding of the situation.
Photo by Milos Simic on Unsplash