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  • Writer's pictureMairin McCracken

The Huddle #28: Can I Get a Witness?

I just got back from a non-violent communication workshop, and my head is spinning with thoughts about empathy, listening, and relationships. But the one question swirling around my heart is this: 

Can I get a witness? 

If you ever had a playdate with me as a kid, you probably would have described me as bossy- or, as we now say due to the recent #banonbossy, I had "executive leadership skills."* While I’m no longer dragging my friends onto the field at my brother’s football games and shouting “Louder, Shannon!!!” in my JC Penny cheerleader getup, this theme has been woven into the fabric of my life (ehem, I’m a teacher). And while I love being in the driver’s seat, there’s nothing I hate more than unsolicited advice. So, where is the balance of lending a friendly ear and offering an unwanted solution? 

Today, I learned a secret: no one needs your (or my) advice. They don’t need it! You and I are fully capable, problem-solving beings. You’ve overcome a lot in your day, and so have I. And you’ll continue to do that. What we do need, what every single person in this world needs, is to be seen and heard. 

One of my favorite quotes from Glennon Doyle reads: “People who are hurting don't need Avoiders, Protectors, or Fixers. What we need are patient, loving Witnesses. People to sit quietly and hold space for us. People to stand in helpful vigil to our pain.” 

While many of us are already practicing this with our external relationships, if you’re anything like me, you forget that the person in your life who needs to be seen and heard by you the most is none other than you.

For example, I often find myself, late at night, sitting on my couch with my favorite bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips. If I’m not paying attention (it depends which episode of The Office is playing at the time), I’ll look down and realize that half the bag (or, the entire bag, THERE I SAID IT), is gone. Nine times out of ten, my immediate reaction is to guzzle a giant glass of water to rinse the taste out, book a workout the for next day to counteract my chocolate binge and make a mental vow to myself to only have one handful the next night. 

While this feels productive, it might better fall into the ‘unsolicited advice’ category. I’m just being a Fixer, rather than a Witness. If and when I take a moment to pause and hold space for myself, I’ll notice how I’m actually feeling after taking dozens of chocolate chips to the face.  I’m often surprised at the outcome. It’s usually something like “I’m feeling exhausted, and I need comfort right now.” Now, this is something I can build on. The amazing thing is that once I acknowledge how I’m feeling, I can see clearly what my needs are. From there, I can begin to meet those needs from a place of compassion, rather than reaction.

So, here's my invitation to you, for you: can you be a witness?

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