Have you ever been in a situation where you were pouring your heart out to someone, only for them to turn the conversation around to themselves? Maybe you were talking about a difficult time in your life, & the other person kept interrupting with stories of their own struggles. It can be frustrating & hurtful, especially if you’re already vulnerable. This is why it’s important to remember that when someone is talking about something you can relate to, you should listen & support them, rather than making it all about you.
When someone is sharing a personal experience, it’s important to remember that they are trusting us with their vulnerability. By turning the conversation around to ourselves, we are essentially shutting them down & telling them that our experiences are more important than theirs. This can be incredibly damaging to our relationships, particularly with those who have experienced verbal & emotional abuse.
People who have been through abuse may struggle to open up to others, especially if they have been gaslighted, or made to feel like their experiences are not valid. When we turn the conversation around to ourselves, we are reinforcing this idea that their experiences are not important. It can make it even harder for them to trust others & feel like they can share their feelings.
Additionally, when we repeatedly turn the conversation around to ourselves, we are sending a message that we are not interested in what the other person has to say. Even if we don’t feel that way, our behavior shows otherwise. This can lead to the other person feeling invalidated & unheard, & they may start to avoid opening up to us altogether.
So, how can we respond in a way that shows we care & are invested in what the other person is saying? Here are a few tips:
Listen actively: When someone is sharing with us, we should give them our full attention. This means actively listening to what they are saying, without interrupting or trying to relate it back to ourselves.
Show empathy: Let the other person know that you hear them & understand how they are feeling. This can be as simple as saying, “That sounds really tough. I’m sorry you’re going through that.” You also can say you went through something similar, but unless they specifically ask for all the details, don’t elaborate much so as to avoid turning the conversation’s focus to you,
Ask questions: If you’re not sure what to say, ask the other person questions about their experience. This shows that you’re interested in what they have to say & can help them feel heard.
Avoid offering unsolicited advice: Unless the other person specifically asks for advice, it’s best to avoid giving it. Instead, focus on validating their feelings & providing support.
Be mindful of your own behavior. Take the time to reflect on how you respond when others open up to you & make a conscious effort to be more present & supportive. This is particularly important for those who have not experienced verbal or emotional abuse, as you may not fully understand how your behavior can impact others.
Being a good listener is not always easy, but it’s essential for building strong, healthy relationships. By being mindful of how we respond when others open up to us, we can create a safe & supportive space for them to share their experiences. This, in turn, can help strengthen our connections & foster greater empathy & understanding.
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