Respond Softly & Carry An Active Ear

The difficulty of explaining how life can feel overshadowed by prejudice starts the moment a person picks an example of confrontation to draw upon.  Once their story is told, the mind of a listener instantly works to assess what occurred and why.  Our brain asks what can be learned (or forgotten) from the experience?  Unfortunately, listeners on occasion write experiences off as “just a bad day.”  A bad day can belong to either the confrontational stranger or the person explaining the discomfort from their example.  This misleading response feels genuine when trying to comfort someone unnerved by a difficult interaction.

It is, however, a truly odd mental balancing act we seem conditioned to respond with.  A simultaneous exercise of suggesting others can be morally lead astray due the grind of day to day living.  All the while trying to nurture hope that society isn’t full of quick to judge strangers.  We carry good intentions, yet how comforting is our response really?  This one example our friend or family member confides in us may be a drop in the bucket compared to the list of confrontational memories they carry.

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We wonder what mental complexes are being developed in the minds of bullied youth?  It would seem difficult to decipher between circumstantial situations and legitimate, reoccurring examples that suggest a deeper social issue victims are faced with.  Everything comes to a head, however, when a victim is left with the painful question “what is it about me that provoked this treatment?”

Next time a friend or family member tells you about a difficult interaction take careful time to consider their perspective.  Is this another puzzle piece to a greater image growing in their mind?  How does a person comfort another without being dismissive of raw, confused emotions?  Try this:

  • Start by addressing confusion any victim of prejudiced confrontations expresses. Try to work past specific actions to find core emotions provoked by the experience.
  • Ask “why do you think they chose to confront you?” Comfort them if they felt targeted for how they look or are perceived as by the offending party.  Remind them that no one deserves to be judged so quickly.
  • Ask them if anything like this has happened before. Remind them that they have a right to feel safe.
  • Carry no shame in admitting you also do not understand the motivations of a bully. Confusion is difficult and does not always go away quickly.  Empathy, however, always helps a person feel less alone.
  • Understand that apologizing for the situation doesn’t mean you excuse the offender. It is simply one of many ways to acknowledge the real hurt a victim feels.

From kindergarten until graduation day children are expected to follow rules and schedules dictated by their elders.  Growing up, it can be difficult for children to speak up when they don’t feel they are heard or have a say in their day to day.  Yet every child wishes to be heard when they feel hurt or threatened.  That desire will never cease when reach adulthood.

We must stay vigilant to actively listen and not write their stories off as “bad days.”  That is how we give expectations to victims that “bad days” and the real emotions that come with them are dismiss-able.  And that truly is how we cancel out our want to comfort and negate our ability to give hope to others.

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