Starting to share more and open up, and feeling judged by those close to you? What can you do? How do you know if someone has the bandwidth to listen?
Cathy: We just answered a question about someone who’d shared vulnerably and been judged by her family and her husband. There are times when sharing vulnerably, especially if you’re going through a lot…
Reid: If you didn’t see that video, they were judged as being insecure because they were sharing vulnerably.
Cathy: I’ve had times when… For instance I just moved across the country, started a new job, looking for a house; I have more stuff coming up, and I’ve been sharing more with my friends and people close to me. There’s times when they don’t have the resources to hold space, so I wanted to talk a little bit about how you can judge that and still share vulnerably with people you love and are close to, get the support you need and respect their boundaries. This is Reid Mihalko from ReidAboutSex.com .
Reid: Cathy Vartuli from TheIntimacyDojo.com . The question is: how do you know when somebody has the resources?
Cathy: Right, because the general… what you and I talk about a lot, and what you’ve always encouraged people, is you want to share what’s true for you, but there can be times when you’re sharing, like… For the last month I’ve had a lot of things that were unsettled for me, and so there was more processing and more talking that I wanted to do so that I could feel more grounded and like, “Oh, my God, I’ve never been in this job before. I think I’m doing a good job, but this and this happened today,” and I’m wanting to process stuff, or share stuff, and how do you know when someone has the space for you to be vulnerable and share?
Reid: Sure. Ideally you can just check in with them and be like, “Hey, do you have space?” They can accurately self-report that they do or they don’t.
Cathy: Sometimes they may think they do, and they may not.
Reid: Most of your friends will say yes, because they care about you and they want to help, or they are really a ‘no’ but can’t say no, or they… I mean, there’s lots of different reasons, but let’s say that those are the main two and maybe there’s a third where they say no because they don’t want to upset you. I grew up in a family where a lot of people said yes because they didn’t want to upset. It was easier to say yes and just kind of go along with it…
Cathy: Kind of hope you could hold your breath through it?
Reid: … and hope it gets over, rather than have to deal with cleaning up the explosion that would happen if they actually shared what was going on. That kind of tolerating is really common in most people’s families, and then they bring that into the rest of their lives. Understanding that all of us, me included, we have been raised in a culture where we were rewarded for tolerating, and there’s a whole martyr/self-sacrifice thing where relationship/paradigm-wise, the way we show love is by going through more hell.
Cathy: Yeah, it’s like you’re a really good person if you suffer a lot for the people you love.
Reid: If you really cared about this person, you would go out of your way. Add that all together and it basically means, if you really want to go there, that you can’t trust anybody when they say, when they answer your question, “Do you have bandwidth for processing right now?”
Cathy: Even someone who’s cleared that may think that they have the bandwidth, and they get partway into it and they’re like, “Oh my god…”
Reid: All the great intentions pave the way to hell.
Cathy: Based on that, and I’m being facetious, we should never share with anybody because it would be…
Reid: Yeah, based on that, you hire a pro. There’s a reason why therapy and counseling is really useful. Now if you grew up in a family where everybody in your family is a horrible listener, and gives you their opinion before you’ve even shared anything, then you’re usually the one who’s like, “Hell, yeah, I’m going to hire a therapist. This is dreamy!”
Cathy: It’s wonderful to have friends that you can turn to, and vent to, and get support from.
Reid: Yeah, but look at what’s going on in their lives. If you even have a whiff that they don’t have the resources, then don’t even ask because they’re probably going to say yes because they want to support you, and you already know they don’t have the resources.
Cathy: If you have friends that do have the ability to say no, and you sense that there’s something…
Reid: You trust their judgement and you know they’re not under duress.
Cathy: … you can request that they… if they notice something changing, they let you know because it’s not fun to have someone be resentful or take it out sideways when they don’t realize they just got overwhelmed partway through the conversation.
Reid: Yeah, and then what ends up happening… and there’s a psychological term for this in business and I can’t remember what it is… but then if we’ve been talking for thirty minutes and I realize I’m at my wit’s end, and you’re my friend and you’re in the middle of really sharing vulnerably, I’m probably going to be like, “I can probably go another five minutes. I think they might get over the hump of this in five minutes. I’m just going to go over there.
Cathy: You’ve actually, with me, you’ve said, “Hey, I’m running out of steam. I haven’t eaten. I can give you five more minutes,” and so that can let people wrap up rather than, “Hey. We’re done,” and you’re like, “But, I’m mid-sentence.”
Reid: Again, I teach this stuff for a living. I’ve made all the mistakes and more, so I can usually tell and speak up around that; but your friends, if they’re not coaches and therapists, may not know that.
Cathy: And you can start role-modeling, asking, talking about it.
Reid: Really the value here is when it goes horribly wrong and they just can’t get rejection and then they explode and you implode. Everything’s okay. It’s just that they’re not a therapist; they’re not a trained listener, and they weren’t able to tell you that they didn’t have the bandwidth. It’s okay. You guys will get through it, but what are your resources, and do you have several people you can talk to just in case the first three aren’t available?
Cathy: To me, it’s a lot like a dance; there’s going to be times when you step on each other’s toes or stumble, especially if you’re trying to do more intricate steps. I love Reid’s difficult conversation formula where you can clean things up and sit down like, “Do you have a few minutes? I’d like to talk to you about something I’ve been saying. I really love how much you listen, how deeply you listen, how much you’ve been there for me. I’m afraid that by talking about this, I’ll ruin everything and you’ll never be there for me again, but what I noticed is the last time I was venting, I asked if I could vent, but partway through you got a little snippy and you seemed resentful toward me the rest of the night. I’d really love to know, was it what we were talking about? Are you maxed out? If you let me know, we can both take care of ourselves.”
Reid: The difficult conversation formula… you can go to ReidAboutSex.com/difficultconvo, or just type in the search bar “difficult conversations” and you’ll find the article to it and there’s also a free download.
Cathy: It’s great, and there’s a model, steps you can fill in. It’s really powerful, and it’s okay to be awkward at first. It still works.
Reid: Good luck. It’s all baby steps. It’s not about perfection; it’s about progress. Keep going. You’re doing great, and none of your friends are going to be perfect at this. Hell, you should hang out with therapists who are therapists of therapists and find out how fucked up the world is, but getting your needs met, being able to communicate, and share, and get reassurance and feedback when you need it, that’s way healthier and way more important than trying to be silent and tolerant. Thanks for speaking up. Speak up right now! Leave some comments!