Recently I was at a party and was talking to some friends. One of them was sharing stories about the years they were in the service. What was fascinating to me was the detail they used to describe their experiences.
Driving home later that evening, I was thinking about how many things I do not remember about my past days. My friend’s remembrances of the past seemed so close and real even though they happened nearly 40 years ago. Why was that?
I came to realize that the experiences he described to me must have made a great impression on his life. The experiences he shared with me (in some ways) were different than he was used to (of course), and they were filled most likely with fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. His stories talked of his mastery of the skills he was asked to develop so to master them he had to pay attention to the detail (not knowing at first if he could).
My focus in sharing these thoughts with you are not about the necessity of mastering detail to accomplish things but rather the necessity with which each of us need to listen to others.
If you really want to find out “who a person is” listen to their conversations to see what they describe with great detail. This is where the opportunities lie to engage the other person. These “patches of detail” will get you much closer to understanding someone else. For those things that they describe in detail either interest them greatly or “shook them” deeply.
Not everything that someone else is interested in will interest me. That’s ok. When you see the high level of detail in the interests of others try to learn something from them. You just never know when it will help you with a different issue or problem in your life.
Our true engagement with others and our ability to touch another person’s heart centers around the moments in another person’s life where they were in situations that either “shook them” deeply and they survived or in situations where there emotions have consumed them causing them to be blind to the details around them and there is no resolution yet.
Showing interest in their “patches of detail” or “patches of strong emotions” can be very effective in building strong relationships. When you hear detail think of the uncertainty, fear, anxiety, or the immense challenge they must have felt at the time. The details are shared clearly because their emotions were resolved and now become hidden.
Be compassionate when you don’t hear detail but rather only hear uncertainty, fear, anxiety or challenge for there truly only is confusion. There is no resolution yet. At this point, the other person does not see very much of the detail in their situation. Your friend needs your patience and love more now than ever.
Listening for “patches of detail” takes more practice and skill than listening for “patches of emotion”. There is more variation in our lives, in our conversations and in our ability to share details or emotions than we think. Finding these patches will bring a depth and an understanding of another person through their texture, color, and hue.
Be careful not to judge. Not only is it not our place but we too have and share our own “patches of detail” or “patches of emotion” that are mixed at times with the great confusion and uncertainty in our lives that we find ourselves in. No one is immune. Neither you nor I.