We all have moments in our lives where situations or perhaps earthly things have stolen our peace and replaced peace with conflict. In this day and age, there are a lot of polarizing beliefs, and as individuals, sometimes our vision can become so clouded that we refrain from communicating our views due to fear of making a mistake. However, there are ways towards peace and unity that still allow those that are generally not heard, to be heard, and for unity and love to take form.

Here are four ways you can help others feel heard in any situation and move towards a path of peace.

1.    DON’T DISMISS THEIR CONCERNS

Have you ever talked with a friend about something that was bothering you? To you, it was a significant issue, but possibly to the other person, hearing it for the first time, it didn’t bring much value into their day to day life. After you told the story, they didn’t respond in the way you hoped, or they decided to move on from the topic. Unfortunately, this is a reality many people face when issues that glean importance to them are dismissed. When trying to bridge the gap of communication, it is essential to practice empathy, the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner. For example, instead of using phrases like, ‘Are you sure you weren’t just reading into that’ or ‘Maybe you’re overthinking the situation’, try using these phrases instead, ‘I’m sorry that you had to experience that,’ or ‘I can’t imagine how that must’ve felt for you’. As Paul writes in Romans 12:15, as a Christian community we too must, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; and mourn with those who mourn.”

Responses that start from a place of empathy will open the door for deep conversation, communication, and connection.

2.    LISTEN

As simple as it might seem, listening is difficult. In James 1:19 the passage of scripture reads, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” In other words, listening is critical. For someone to feel heard, they have to be listened to, meaning no answering your phone, and no thinking of a response while the person is speaking or interrupting them while they are sharing their truth. According to a Harvard Business Review study, people spend between 70 and 80% of their day engaged in some form of communication, and about 55% of their time is devoted to listening, however, we tend to forget one-half to one-third of it within eight hours. One has to wonder how efficient we would be in conflict resolution if we just listened more and talked less.

3.    DO NOT PRETEND TO UNDERSTAND. IF YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND SAY IT.

There is a big difference between not understanding and just not caring. The reality of this is that many times the lines are blurred, and that makes showing empathy difficult. However, one thing we can all relate to is, nobody enjoys when someone pretends to understand the feelings they are experiencing. Let me put it like this, if you’ve ever lost someone and they tell you” I completely understand” that response can kind of feel off-put. The reason being is they might not have known that person so how could they understand the loss you feel?  Due to this, you can’t entirely relate. This situation does not mean you run away from the person going through a difficult time or compare it to that time you lost your favorite watch or car keys. Often this is done with the purest intentions but comes off as flippant making a person feel like their feelings are being dismissed (see point one).  Authentic understanding sometimes means being present with the person hurting or grieving. It means if you’re at a lost for words, offering a hug, or a simple ‘I’m here for you,’ both go a long way.

4.    REMEMBER: THERE IS AN EXCEPTION TO EVERY RULE, SO UNDERSTAND THAT ONE PERSON’S EXPERIENCE DOES NOT SPEAK TO THE ENTIRETY OF A COMMUNITY OR PEOPLE GROUP.

For example, as a person of color, I often run into this juxtaposition, and it invokes a deep sense of pressure and fear when I experience the weight of being the spokesperson for my community. Just because I’ve had my own experiences and I’ve grown up in a society that has emphasized my skin color, does not mean that I speak for every single person of color. This point transcends skin color because the same can be said about religion, gender, socioeconomic status, sexuality, political parties, the list goes on and on. Even as I’m writing an article on how to make people feel heard, my advice might not work for the next person you see. I am speaking from my life lessons, research, and interactions with others, but nothing is ever 100%, and so it would be harmful to assume and push one form of thinking on to every person that you encounter.

Acts 17:26-27 says, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. He is not far from each one of us.”

When we talk about Acts 17:26-27, Paul is stating that God is involved in the time and place of all nations. As a human’s decisions are made, God responds to them in ways that determine their limits because he is working in the hope that they will find him. Paul is also saying that all men are equal in God’s sight since all came from one man.

These passages of scripture emphasize the importance that exists in everything God has created, done, and the extent of His purpose and plan for all creation, that we would seek God…that we would feel our way toward him and find him because he is not far from each of us.

Written by Kayla Brock