A friend messaged me after reading my latest blog post, “Walking in Each Other’s Shoes”.

Tim’s message quoted a sentence from the post, along with a clarifying point: “history that includes struggles with poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, violence, abuse and trauma.” Could mention colonialism and attempted genocide. This could sound like it’s all the Indians fault.”  

I really appreciate that Tim reached out to share his thoughts. He is correct in suggesting that the examples I used to illustrate some of the struggles the women were facing could lead to some feeling misunderstood and hurt. For Tim rightly suggested that other major facets of native history, such as colonialism, that I did not choose to mention, remain primary influences in their struggles.

I would never want the comment, or the article as a whole to come off as judgemental or minimizing in any way. It was only my intent to  share this experience as a way to highlight how easy it is for all of us to misinterpret another’s non-verbal and verbal behaviour.

And most importantly, I hoped to emphasize how every single one of us needs to accept responsibility for communicating in constructive ways that lead to the deeper understanding and appreciation of each other’s stories and circumstances.

Ensuring that there is the necessary space and time for each to share. And through using  clarifying questions and comments we seek to hear and grasp all that is on the other’s heart and mind.

The article sought to point out how each of us can tend to see the world through our own unique perspective and lens. And how our different postures can create challenges for us in communicating and understanding one another. Where misunderstandings  happen because we can each interpret the same words quite differently, depending upon the images and feelings we associate or attach to those words. Or how quick judgements about someone’s non-verbal behaviour or the choices they make can lead us to false assumptions or generalizations. Or the miscommunication that can happen when we struggle to find and articulate the words to accurately convey all that is on our heart and mind.

But regardless of the many reasons that lead to such misconstructions, the solution lies in each of us owning the responsibility to communicate in healthier and more considerate ways.

Because intentional and authentic and mutually respectful engagement has the power to clarify and transform our false impressions and narratives. This type of communication results in false conjectures shifting and morphing into more sensitive and accurate understandings.

The much needed discussions where we seek clarification and to make connections. Just as Tim did in his message to me. Or just as the woman did when she raised my red shoes in the counselling session.

Where we take responsibility to respectfully share an opinion, make an observation, raise a concern, ask a question – all because there is a sincere desire to seek elucidation.

Where genuine curiosity and openness and receptivity are invited and encouraged.

Where there is a sincerity about listening to one other. Where each is resolved to hear the other, before trying to formulate a response.

Communication where new insights are cultivated and heart transformation generated.

Where we are able to fully delight in our uniqueness and we welcome our differences.

And where we are courageous enough to walk into each other’s stories, even when those stories are hard and distressing and heartbreaking.

Communication where there is a power in the exchanges and sharing – because it affirms the human yearning to be heard, and to be known.

All which stretches our capacity for compassion and love and grace and acceptance.

Even though we all wear different colours and types of shoes.