Listening and Support is all some people need

Image 

As the holiday season is upon us, I can only think about all of the people who will have relationship issues. Not large issues but enough for them to want to vent to someone else. Well if I haven’t learned anything else in this journey to becoming a better person and friend, it is that sometimes people just want you to listen to them and support them. Now this sounds really easy, but it is not as easy as it sounds.

Think about the part in Waiting to Exhale, when they were all sitting around talking about their problems with men and how none of them were judgmental (maybe because they had been drinking) but they were listening and supportive (in their own way). Sometimes all we want to do is offer advice instead of listening to what the person has to say. Sometimes you just need to vent to people, because you don’t want to say something to the person that upset you.  It is sometimes better to vent to other people, instead of just getting upset about everything. It may not be as large of an issue as it appears. 

So how can we go against our natural instinct and just listen and offer support? I have two suggestions. First, when someone is having a problem let them talk without interrupting them with what you think and what they should do. You will need to give them some cues that you are listening such as nodding, eye contact and the occasional “yes”, “um-huh”. For some of us (women), this is easier because we do it more often than men.  It is okay to interrupt, but only if you need clarification. It is not okay if you want to offer your opinion and the person is not finished explaining the situation.  Also, try to listen mindfully and don’t let your thoughts wander.  You may think people don’t know when you are not listening, but don’t you remember that time when someone was pouring their heart out to you and you weren’t listening and they asked you what you think and you didn’t have an answer or gave the wrong response. People DO know when you are not listening and it is quite insensitive to not listen. Plus, it is easy for you to think about other things when people are talking but do you like when people are not listening to you but instead are thinking about other things. I don’t think you like it, so don’t do it to other people.

Second piece of advice that I have is, be supportive. Now this can come in different ways. You can be supportive by recalling the incident and saying that whatever decision they make you are there for them. Now if you think what they are doing is not right, then say so, but be sure to tell them why you don’t agree with it. Don’t assume they should understand because if they did, then you wouldn’t be having the conversation. You can also be supportive by offering a different outlook on the situation. Now this does not mean you need to tell them what they need to do, but instead you can offer them a different perspective on the situation. This includes saying that you understand their point of view and if you don’t have them explain it further. Once you let it be known that you understand their point of view, they may not take your advice and may even become angry, but that is just an initial reaction for some people. Then you can offer a different outlook and explain it. Depending on who you are talking to (woman or man) they may expect a different type of support.  

I know this advice seems so simple, but sit back and recall the last time someone spilled their heart out to you and you did not try to tell them what they should do. You probably don’t have to think hard about the situation. Just know that listening and being supportive is what most people need not judgmental and a pity party. 

Advertisements

When is Honesty too Much?

Everytime you ask someone what they want in a relationship, whether it is romantic or not, one of the responses is always: honesty. Honesty has become one of the things that people can’t live without. I am not arguing with that fact but I do want to pose a question. How much honesty is to much honesty?

I have asked several people about their relationships, specifically friendships and they all say they want honesty. The thing about honesty though is that the level of honesty they expect differs based on the relationship. According to the people I spoke with, the only people who can be completely honest with them are their best friends and family. This does not mean that they don’t get offended, but they are at least willing to listen.  What you must know is that they don’t feel like all family members and friends can be completely honest with them. They only want people who they feel have their well-being at heart and who will not purposely hurt them. So this did not include everyone. The people that are honest with them the most, are the people who they are closest with.

So a person they don’t disclose to, does not have the right to be completely honest to them. They don’t want a person they consider only a friend to tell them their honest opinion about their current relationship or their opinion about a major decision they are about to make.  They only want as much honesty as they give to them. This amount of honesty is normally quite superficial and most likely will not hurt anyones feelings. Does this apply to everyone, of course not.  Some people want others to tell them the truth regardless of their relationship. I have not encountered too many people who feel this way.  Honesty is one of those traits that we ask for, but we don’t really explain how honest we would like other to be with us.

Another thing about honesty is that we don’t always respond to it in a constructive way because it may not be what we want to hear at the time.  The thing we have to remember is that if we can’t mindfully listen and consider what others are telling us when they are being honest, then it could get to the place where people are no longer honest to us. You will have to set boundaries about topics and areas where you feel that person can be honest with you.  If no boundaries are set and that person offers their opinion on the situation, you may respond negatively and potentially damage the relationship.

So the question that asked when is honesty to much? The answer is that it is up to you and how you respond to it. If you don’t want everyone being completely honest with you, then you have to set boundaries. You also do not need to disclose information to people whose honesty will not be valued. So if honesty is important to you and you do not want everyone to be completely honest to you, then you have to control who you disclose to.

Black in America After Thoughts

Last night I watched Black in America. This installment in the series was great. It really looked at something that people don’t talk about but it happens on a daily basis. Colorism is often overlooked as something that is not as serious as racism. It is overlooked because people do it everyday and don’t give it a second thought as to whether what they are saying is offensive. The thing with colorism is that, it is just as dangerous as racism. It places a hierarchical nature on who is beautiful and who isn’t and how people view themselves. The worse part is that just like racism, colorism is taught. We don’t come out of the womb thinking “Oh she is pretty because she is light skinned and I am not because I am dark skinned”. We only start to make these statements as we grow up and hear other people say them. A very good example is when babies are born and they have a light complexion and people are like oh she/he baby is cute. Then turn around and see a very cute baby that has a darker complexion and give a hair compliment instead, as if because the baby is darker she/he is not a cute. You know they say when people think a child is not cute they will compliment something else about the child other than the looks, i.e., hair, outfit, eyes. So this installment made me think about my own journey with colorism.

As a Black person with darker skin, I can say watching Black in American really resonated with me. I, just like the little girl thought a light complexion was beautiful and that I wasn’t because of my complexion. It impacted how I wore my hair, how I talked, and the friends I surrounded myself with. I was accustomed to being darker than some of my family members and also being called out about it. The only good thing is that my mother didn’t play those games.  She emphasized that we were all beautiful and that your complexion did not make you beautiful. She, having a darker complexion did not bite her tongue when it came to people saying a person was cute because of their complexion. She was very vocal about people who she thought was cute and people she didn’t based on their attitudes and how others treated them.  Most of the time the people she didn’t think were cute, were the people everyone else made a big deal out of and treated them differently because they had a lighter complexion. Although I grew up knowing this, it did not change how I viewed myself. Outside of the house, I still had to hear comments and jokes and my complexion or people who were darker than myself.  My mother, father, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephew, and my great niece all either have a medium or dark complexion.  So you would think we would never call each other Black or ugly or things like that but we did because that was what we knew and heard other say. That was what other people said, excluding my mommy.

It took a while for me to realize that the color of my skin did not make me beautiful but the spirit that was within and how I treated others. It became more apparent as I got older and people who were of a light complexion suddenly became ugly, (and some of them still are) because of their attitudes and how they treated others. It still frustrated me that as much progress I made with my attitudes towards people of different shades of Blackness, I still would heard the same attitudes and words that made my progression difficult.  As I began to gain more confidence in myself and my skin, I began to see a change in how others viewed me. True, most of the time people knew me as the smart girl but I became more than a smart girl when I started to realize that I could be smart and beautiful. 

Now I am not just that smart girl anymore . I am that natural haired girl that talks a lot and wants to teach others about the impact of communication,specifically Black people, who has a really pretty smile and really smooth skin, and who marches to her own beat. True, some people will still characterize me by my complexion and I will still be discriminated against because of my complexion, but I am okay with the person I am. It has taken a long time for me to get there and a few people telling me I am beautiful and redefining what beauty is, for me to get here but I am here.  

So Black in America rocked last night and really made me think about my journey to becoming okay with my complexion and the person I have become!!!