Sometimes we say it best, when we say nothing at all
Transcript of this video:
A few years ago I was hosting an Unhurried Conversation here where I live in Cambridge and an Unhurried Conversation is simply a process where people share whatever is on their mind and we use a talking object so that people speak uninterrupted.
And one of the participants about halfway in, first time shopper as I like to say, shared very movingly her experience which is that she had only in the past week come out of six months of treatment in a psychiatric ward.
She spoke very calmly and very movingly about the experience and I remember her saying she hadn’t quite decided yet which was more saying the outside world or the world that she’d just emerged from.
There was a silence after her turn and then when the next person took their turn I think they said nice to meet you to the previous speaker and then took the conversation in a wholly different direction.
This happens quite often in Unhurried Conversations and it was delightful because I think it actually held the previous speaker’s experience.
It honoured it really rather beautifully.
We don’t always need to ask further questions, offer advice or even offer a kind of laborious empathy.
In contrast, in another such conversation, one of the participants also spoke very movingly for 10 minutes.
I think it was about how his work was being disrupted by a crisis going on in his life, and he was sharing this with his colleagues, and it was also very movingly.
And after about 10 minutes of explaining what was going on, somebody picked up the object
But instead of moving on and sharing their experience, they asked what they probably thought was a helpful question.
And they said, how can we support you?
I died a little bit inside because this often doesn’t help much in one of these conversations.
And it led to the speaker, who’d spoken for 10 minutes very movingly, to speak for another 10 minutes.
But all of the spontaneity and, I would say, authenticity had gone out of it.
It was actually a bit boring to listen to.
And I think he was bored, too, because the effect of that apparently helpful question was to push him into speaking when he wasn’t quite ready.
And I tell these two contrasting stories because I think it’s, look, everything depends on context, but I think we underestimate the power of holding people’s experience without necessarily having to always help them or comment on it.