Tuesday, February 25, 2014

He Said/She Said

Conversation is the connective tissue for all relationships. We need it to move forward, to grow, and to develop. When I teach communication courses, the entire first few class sessions revolve around the power of dialogue and the degree to which it influences us. Because it’s hugely powerful.

Communication is our relational currency. We must treat it well.

Upon realizing this truth (I mean really seeing this) over the past couple of years, I have been struck with my own neglect and carelessness in some of my relational interactions. I will boldly share with you that in the past I have felt the freedom to share about other people’s pain in inappropriate ways and with people who had no business being exposed to what I shared. I’ve made other people’s business my business. I’ve indulged in the details of other people’s pain and masked it as “concern” or “care” when reality was it played the role of the drama de jour that so-and-so just had to know about.

While this behavior was not at the constant center of my life, I was leaking humanity at an alarming rate. Anyone could see this tendency of mine popping up all over. Regretfully, I have not been an altogether safe person.

That tendency stopped working for me in a radical way, however. I believe that sometimes it takes great pain to reveal what we need to change, and one day I found myself the focus of other people’s gossip. I was already in a world of hurt at that time, suffering from nearly debilitating depression and anxiety, the soul ache of a pending divorce, and a world of shattered choices I had made. I probably felt that I deserved what others shared about me to some degree. Regardless, that’s when my awareness of wanting to do my relationships differently showed up. Things were going to change because no one deserved to feel the way I did when word got back to me.

Immediately, I was inspired to believe that none of us will ever have the full story of what’s happening for someone. Period. Let’s call this “humility.” First, coming from a place of humility means that we are keenly aware that we do not know what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes even if we have experienced similar things in our life. We are not them. They are not us.

Also, we don’t have all the answers.

Second, I find that it can be all too easy to share details that are not our place to share about someone. Perhaps some of these things might seem harmless and insignificant, maybe even surface level. However, I believe living mindfully and developing healthy relationships means we give dignity to our fellows’ stories and behave in a way that builds trust. As tantalizing and tempting as it may be to share a piece of juicy information we are privy to about someone, we do them a disservice by sharing it with others. We aren’t honoring anyone in that situation. 

For me, generally, I do not feel comfortable talking about someone who isn’t present.

Huge note here: I do not do any of this perfectly. I am hugely flawed and this happens to be a specific area I consciously work on today.

I have found that social media offers us extensive fodder for gossip-y kinds of behavior. The worst thing about that kind of gossip is it’s socially acceptable. Do we consciously realize what we are doing when we say, “Oh my gosh. Did you see what _______ posted today?”

Or, take for example how many times we engage in this kind of talk:

Did you hear what happened to ________?....
She broke up with him because....
He hates his boss and he said....
She has a _______ problem and it’s out of control....
He hasn’t talked to his best friend since....

It is none of our business.

Do we want to share in communal support of friends who going through difficulties? Yes, absolutely. But sometimes we can get in the way of really loving people by meddling in the details, “playing God,” and not truly holding space for others to live out their journey with dignity. I urge us to become intentionally safe people where others walk away from us feeling honored.

If communication really is the currency of our relationships, where are we investing?


  1. Hey Sarah!

    Thanks for posting this! I know it couldn't have been easy to be this transparent, but I want you to know that it's appreciated, and that the lessons you've learned do make a difference in other people's lives! I actually have a huge meeting tonight with a group of friends about this exact topic, and you're experiences in this blog couldn't have come at a better time or made for a better reminder of what we need to focus in on!

    Thank you kindly,

    1. So good to hear from you, Kevin! Would love to get the lowdown on how the meeting went considering this subject matter. I'm sure I have a lot I can learn from your discussion. :)

  2. Humility has really been on my mind lately. Instead of resolutions every New Year, I choose a word on which to focus. This year it was humility, even though I wish it wasn't.

    Something I've been pondering: I think there is an active part to humility in addition to what you surfaced so well. Using your influence or power to benefit others.

  3. My comment got cut off. I'd love to have a conversation about this sometime. Would love to hear more of your insight.

  4. Jon! I would love to talk about this. Email me at sarahauda [at] gmail [dot] com, or we can set up a time to Skype call.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.