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The Language of Listening . . . Like pebbles in a sandbox

For several years, my husband and I struggled with emotional intimacy. When I shared things with him that mattered to me, he didn't respond in a way that made me feel heard. I felt ignored and misunderstood. Eventually, I stopped sharing completely because it wasn't worth being vulnerable and then treated with indifference. Since vulnerability is the heart of intimacy, our relationship suffered. That's when I told him this story.

There once was a boy who liked to play in a sandbox. One day he found a pebble. Not just any pebble; but THE pebble. It was the most magnificent pebble that ever was; so magnificent that all his hopes, dreams, and the existence of all things were wrapped up in this pebble. And he wanted to share it with you. So even if you thought it was just an insignificant pebble, the way you react could have enormous consequences; catastrophic even. So you have to evaluate your options carefully. Do you:

- Throw the pebble away & call it stupid?

- Examine it closely with interest, praising such a magnificent pebble?

- Brag about having a bigger, better pebble yourself, in a one-up contest?

- Ignore the boy and his pebble completely, having better things to do?

There are numerous ways to react to pebbles. The point isn't that they're pebbles at all because sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we just can't see them the same way as the one who shared them with us. So what are they?

Pebbles are opportunities; opportunities to cultivate trust, love and acceptance.

Pebbles come in many forms; not always stories or memories, but actions, and accomplishments too. We can know them by how trustingly and ecstatically they are shared with us. It's not what it means to us, but what it means to the one who shares it.

When I told this story to my husband, a light dawned with an audible "Oh!" It was as if he suddenly remembered all the times that pebbles had been shared with him and unwittingly discarded, and it hurt his soul. He realized that he had missed opportunities to love me in the ways that I needed to be loved; simply by ignoring the moments when I was most vulnerable.

So now, whenever either of us feel like we haven't been heard we remember this story and ask "Did I treat your pebble with the respect it deserved?" We are continually surprised how quickly a course can be corrected if we keep that in mind.

Try it!

-by Jeromy Robison

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