I’ve mentioned here before that “plain speaking” is my default position.
In my interactions with “real” people, however, I actually try to use that “story-sense” I mentioned earlier in order to match the level of openness in the person I’m talking with.
Only, I’ve had at least one situation where I wondered if my attempt at sensitivity backfired.
Some time ago I got a call from a woman who had been through a recent personal tragedy. She wanted to come over and visit, saying we hadn’t talked in a long time. This was true enough, but I was surprised she felt a loss in that.
I called my husband and asked him to be praying for our interaction because I didn’t know this woman well, and didn’t want to, well, accidentally hurt her. I feared she was fragile.
He gave me a handful of good reminders that activated all my attentiveness and I was the perfect hostess. As our children played together I let her guide the conversation and was careful to look for clues in what she did and didn’t say. She stayed longer than I had expected her to, but when she left I still had a sad feeling we missed something important.
Evaluating it later with my husband (and even now, still) I wondered if she’d come to me wanting me to bring up the “unspeakable” because I was someone who’s known for speaking plainly. What if what I considered my huge liability (that might even hurt her) was the one thing she sought me out for?
I prayed for her a lot after that– that she would find what she needed if she didn’t get it from me. And I’ve prayed for wisdom in future interactions like these, that I would be able to (sensitively!) test the waters and be sure I know what a visitor needs from me.
In all, it’s made me think again about what gentle sensitivity looks like.