When I say hurt, I know what that means. When I say falling apart, I know what that means. The phrase everything will be okay is also very definable to me, because to me, hurt means that somebody left me out of an event, falling apart means it’s three months into something and I’m feeling like I need to quit, and everything will be okay means that Jesus is capable.
But here is the thing: those words mean that to me. Those words and phrases could mean something entirely different to you.
They also mean different things to me on different days.
So when I chat with someone, when I’m listening to their story, and they use words that are specific to me, I can’t assume that my definition is theirs. I can’t not determine that the word I understand is the same word that they understand.
Aim for common definitions when you’re talking to others because language is not universal, not even within one community.
Asking for a common definition shows someone that you care. It shows that you have determined that you want to try to understand their story from their perspective.
True empathy is attempting to understand from a perspective different than your own.
True empathy asks why someone is holding an umbrella when there isn't any rain because maybe they think it’s raining and need to be told that it is not, or maybe you need to realize that to them it is. Sometimes we have to help people climb out from things and sometimes we need to climb in and join them.
Maybe that sounded weird. I want to be clear.
I do not think that we can fully understand what others go through. Especially when the things they go through do not seem to end, when their mourning seems to continue longer than we want it to. So I think that sometimes it is our job to help pull them out. To bring them to the light and to encourage the joy.
But sometimes? Sometimes I think we need to walk into their homes, turn off the lights, and simply BE with them. To ask them how they are, listen for the answer, and then ask again, asking deeper and deeper questions because we love them.
Asking not because we want them to change but because we love them.
Noticers are willing to ask what a word means.
Noticers ask questions with care in their eyes.
Noticer have learned that there are many stories around the same event. That might sound odd, but the same event could happen to eight different people and it would impact them all differently. They’re different people. Their reactions and feeling are not the same.
Noticers are okay with hearing new meanings for words, for listening to various thoughts, and are patient enough to wait until others are ready to share.
Be willing to ask what something means. Show that you care.
Ask good questions. Ask follow up questions. Clarify when you are unsure. Be motivated at all times by love.
Are you a noticer? I hope so.
What are some words that you’ve assumed mean something that might have meant something different? You don’t have to share, but maybe you should so that others can learn from your experience.