Former procrastinators, we realize there are no paper doll people – nobody “flat.” Each has a heart filled with struggles, hopes, dreams. Thus, we can be alert to draw out the deep waters that run within others. I’m not good at that. Yet, like everyone else, I long to know and be known.
Procrastination is an easy fall back for those of us who are not comfortable or naturally adept at drawing out others, even family members. Questions don’t come to mind until later, or we lack the boldness to ask them.
How can we learn to overcome our reticence or laziness and draw out those around us?
People I know who do this well share these things in common: They remember there’s a heart within each of us, they care about the individual, they step out and ask the next question – meaning they don’t settle for surface answers but listen and ask for more. Their genuine interest is like a magnet drawing out the thoughts and feelings of the other person – of any age.
It helps me to have prompts that get the ball rolling. Love Talks Flip Books by Chapman and Presson provide questions that stimulate interaction. We can google questions to ask around the dinner table for fun or serious topics. Best is listening carefully in conversation and asking “the next question” layer by layer.
There’s another thing we can do. We can let ourselves be known. This isn’t monopolizing conversation with “me talk,” but letting the other person look inside and see our mistakes, joys, pain. When we let ourselves be known, we open the door for relationship on another level. We entrust someone with a valuable part of us. Enabling him or her to see us as struggling or imperfect builds trust in us. I wish I’d done much more of this as a parent.
Being busy we often lack time and energy to slow down and show interest. My boss or husband is “work-focused.” One child is “our rambunctious kid,” another is “shy.” Sometimes a prominent trait defines the person for us, controlling our thoughts about him. A demanding child especially can seem one dimensional. We make him “flat.” All the while, there is more inside, longing to be known, acknowledged, accepted.
Paper doll perception or flatness is also furthered when I view people only as they fit into my world serving me (grocer, mailman, teacher). It’s furthered when I think somebody is too young, old, or different for us to share things in common. Flatness is furthered by assuming I already know what another person has to offer.
“The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.” Proverbs 20:6.
What a privilege to know and be known! Let’s draw each other out – not miss out.
What questions can you ask your child, husband, friend, or neighbor this week that will help you know him or her better?