I am just going to lay it all out on the table here:
I was not always a safe person.
- I spilled people's secrets.
- I gossiped about friends.
- I judged folks like a freakin' professional.
I was not always a safe person for my friends to be vulnerable with until...
I realized I needed a safe person I could show my raw, bleeding heart to.
When I was going through a very difficult situation in my life, it become evident to me that I really didn't have someone I could be reeeeeally honest with. There was no one in my circle that I felt safe enough to expose what was going on in my life without feeling like the information I shared could be used against me. Besides, I had been hurt before.
The problem was that the less vulnerable I was more... the more disconnected I felt from others. I knew things had to change. I needed to speak up and let someone see the real me and the mess that was going on inside.
So, how DO we know if our friend is a safe person to be vulnerable with?
1. THEY AREN'T JUDGY .
In other words, a "safe" friend isn't always chronically expressing to you their negative opinions on how other people live their lives.
"Personally, I feel like it's a little too soon for her to get married. I doubt the marriage will last."
Sometimes "judgy-ness" is sugar coated with a shared concern or worse... formatted as a prayer request:
"Please pray for So-and-So. I am concerned she's getting remarried too soon and the marriage won't last."
The number one reason why we are hesitant to be vulnerable with others is because we fear we will be judged. Judgement makes us feel instantly unsafe. This is why we need non-judgemental friends in our lives.
If your friend is constantly judging all over the place... they probably aren't a safe person to be vulnerable with.
2. THEY AREN'T A BIG MOUTH.
A friend who is safe is not someone who will chronically spill to you other people's personal business. They don't feel the need to "fill you in" on someone's past so that you "can better understand".
"Don't tell anyone I told you this... but they had problems in their marriage before. She cheated on him with a co-worker."
When a friend tells you something about another person it can make you feel like you are "on the inside" and deceptively closer to the person spilling the information. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The reality is that you are probably just one in many folks they have said "Don't tell anyone I told you this but...". A big mouth plays no favorites.
"Safe" friends are not over-sharers about other people's lives.
3. THEY AREN'T aLWAYS RECRUITING FOR THEIR sIDE OF THE CONFLICT.
A friend who is safe is someone who, when in conflict with another friend, is not trying to recruit you to be on their side.
"Can I just vent to you for a moment? You Know Who and I had a big fight and I just need to know that I am not the crazy one."
Sometimes we DO need a third party to help us process a conflict with another person. "Venting" can be healthy and appropriate. There is a difference between venting and recruiting. Venting confides in and looks for guidance from one or two trusted friends. Recruiting is telling many friends about the conflict in hopes to gather a small army by their side.
You'll know if your friend is "recruiting" by how many people they are "venting" to as well as what their "venting" consists of. A good question to ask is: Are they venting only about the specific conflict or are they trying to discredit the character of the other person?
Recruiters are not a safe person to be vulnerable with because they use personal information about another to persuade others to be against them.
4. THEY aREN'T CONVERSATION HIJACKERS.
A friend who is safe to be vulnerable with is someone who can be fully present with you and not always looking to turn the conversation to be about them.
"Let me tell you story about me...
Conversation hijackers are unable to share the conversational space. They interrupt, talk over and never ask you follow up questions about what you have just shared. They are not always a safe person to be vulnerable with because they have poor listening skills and may only use your story as a platform to launch from into their next story...
A friend who is safe will make sure you feel heard.
The real question we should ask ourselves is...
Am I a safe person for my friends to be vulnerable with?
- Am I judgmental? Do I always have a negative comment to make about other people's lives?
- Am I a big mouth? Do I tell my friends personal information about other people they do not need to know?
- Am I someone who recruits others to be on my side of a conflict? When I am not getting along with someone, do I want to make sure others don't want to get a long with them either?
- Am I conversation hijacker? Am I always trying one up my friends with a better story or do I always bring the conversation back to my life?
When I ask myself these questions, I know that I have not always been a safe person for my friends to be vulnerable with. As much as I need a "safe friends"... my friends need to able to find a "safe friend" in me too.
In order to thrive, we must feel like we can be vulnerable with someone. We have to feel like there is a safe person to tell. This is why we must both be on the look out for friends we can be vulnerable with but also intentionally become a friend that others can be vulnerable. In friendship, it's always about the give and take.
Let's become "safe friends" for each other because, "to be alive is to be vulnerable".
Always a friend,