A friend asked me the other day, “How do you get people to be so vulnerable with you?” The people in question are those I speak with over the phone most days. They are people that I have never spoken to before, and people that most likely I will never speak to again. I have no counseling experience, but a couple times a day, for about an hour, someone new opens up to me about their daily struggle with porn, the emotional abuse from their father, or their alcohol addiction, their co-dependent relationship, their suicidal thoughts, their homosexual feelings, or their hopelessness and fears.
Part of my job is interviewing future World Racers. I ask them to tell me their story, to tell me the turning points in their life, and about the challenges they face. I ask these things to make sure they’re in a healthy place to go on a trip as long and as, at times, intense as the World Race.
They could tell me everything is fine. They could lie about their tough situations. I would probably never know. They wouldn’t have to endure the, “I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but…”, or the, “I’ve never told anyone this before, but…” Most of the time, they don’t tell me everything’s fine, because it’s not.
I thought for a while about my friends question. There is nothing special that I do to get people to be open with me. I’m just a voice on the other end of the phone. They don’t know me. They have no reason to be open to me more than anyone else.
I was talking to a young man the other day, and I asked him a question about his life. I had already asked him about his family, his story and now I was inquiring about his daily struggles. There was a ten second pause before he said, “No one has ever bothered to ask me about that before.” Another pause. “Man, I just want to thank you for caring,” he said. After that, vulnerability came, but more, broken chains came.
The only thing close to matching love’s power is its simplicity. Future World Racers open up, often for the first time, with someone on the other end of a phone with whom they have never met, because I care to listen.
I received an e-mail a few days ago from an old friend asking if I would like to get lunch with him. He said there were some things he was struggling with, and “didn’t know that I helped people like that.”
At first, I was a little intimidated. Like I said, I’m not a counselor. But then I was reminded of love’s simplicity. I won’t have to say anything groundbreaking. I won’t need a revelation from God to help with his struggles. I’ll just need to listen. Knowing you’re loved can change the world.
Are you taking the time to hear how people are really doing?