Finding someone who’s safe to open up with usually begins long before you actually need to talk.
I’ve made decisions about who to share the most intimate details of my life with based on how people have responded to me in the past. But I also decide who’s safe based on how I see them respond to others.
Sometimes I know they’re safe because of the things they say.
Sometimes I know they’re safe because of the things they don’t say.
Maybe it’s the way they communicate with me nonverbally – a facial expression that’s warm and inviting, that matches the tone of the conversation, that leads me to believe they’re truly invested in what I’m saying.
Sometimes I know whether or not they’re safe by the way they respond to others. Maybe it’s a comment I hear them make in a class, in a small group setting, or standing around talking casually with a group of friends.
Sometimes I know if they’re a safe place for me based on what they find humorous. What they find funny in a television show or movie. Or a joke told among friends.
Sometimes I know they’re safe because they don’t laugh. Especially if everyone else does.
But if I want to know if someone’s really a safe place for me to open up and make myself vulnerable, I listen for what they’ll tolerate from other people.
Because it’s not enough to just not say hurtful things yourselves.
I don’t know you’re really safe until I see that you’re willing to stand up and tell other people – your other friends – that what they’re saying is hurtful.
That it limits the possibility that I’ll ever feel safe with you.
That it closes the door for future conversation.
I wonder how many doors I’ve closed by simply being silent when I should’ve said something.
Or not said something.