Some people are easier to read than others. Their emotions are everywhere! You can see it on the face, playing out in their body language, and in the tone and shape of their voice. Everywhere one is willing to notice, one can find a piece of the larger story. The signals are there, active, engaging, demanding our attention.
Life likes to remind me that what I think I see is not always real. As obvious as emotions can be, they may not tell the story we think we are hearing. If one accepts the premise that the obvious isn’t always what we think it is, the natural question that follows is “what should one do with it?” I would like to suggest the following ideas that I encourage myself to hold onto.
First, ask. Avoiding assumptions, let the experience of emotion trigger a question or two. The opposite is what I witness recently. As emotions exploded and reactions followed, I could hear the unspoken frustration; “I put on a sad face, they treated me like a clown.” (Psalm 69.11)
There is a alternative way to respond; explore, inquire, and seek to understand. I find that when one uses the smallest part of the experience as possible as the trigger to ask one opens up the widest door to hearing the true story. Conclusions on my part often lead to defensiveness. Curiosity, especially compassionate and empathetic curiosity, opens a door to dialogue.
Second, come prepared to do what one can to help. If in doubt, ask the obvious question – what can I do? The key is to inquire, not assume. The point is to provide support, not guidance or instruction unless the latter is explicitly asked for.
Visuals are fun. They are the color and texture in our experiences. They are the seasoning that takes a bland moment to something that explodes. As wonderful as the roles they play in our lives are, they are not the whole or final part of the story. Each expression is a window and door to more. Opening invitations is fun.