I say this a lot in casual conversation, so I may as well write it down. Here are some promises I’m making when I’m talking to people. These hold for everyone I talk to; I also think they’re good rules in general.
- I promise that you are the first and only judge of whether or not you care about something, whether or not it’s important to you.
- I promise that you are not boring when you talk about the stuff you care about.
- I promise that it’s okay to talk about what’s important to you without apology or shame.
- I promise that stuff that’s important to you, is important enough to talk about: your life should matter to you! That the rest of the world exists, doesn’t obviate that the events of your life are important to you.
- I promise it is okay to talk about the things you want and need to talk about.
- I promise that it is okay to not talk about the things you don’t want to talk about.
- I promise it is okay to talk about things that you’re unsure about. Thinking about something by talking about it is a valuable tool. Some thoughts are much easier to think with that tool than with wordless solo introspection.
- I promise you are qualified to talk about your own experience and your own opinion.
Basically, I like to think that when I talk to people I’m fond of (I try to also do this with people I dislike, but I do not always succeed), I default to taking you seriously, listening as a peer, and assuming that you matter. You deserve safety, health, and happiness. We all deserve that.
My ideas here are heavily informed by Alice Miller’s notion of a “helping witness,” but going into detail about that is another post (and a rather grim one, at that).