The Graceful Confidant : Listen, but Make it Trauma-Informed

Fat Black Liberation
7 min readJul 29, 2019

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Have you ever mustered up the courage to share something personal only to have it received with a jarring or not so welcoming response? We’ve all experienced it. You share something you’ve been toiling with for days, weeks, sometimes years hoping to find some relief and then the way people respond is just — all wrong. It kinda feels like whatever happened is happening all over again. We put something precious in the hands of people we trust and sometimes people just let us down. Human things with human things doing — human things. It can get messy.

As a social worker I’ve been trained on how to receive information from clients in an array of circumstances and settings. And beyond that I would say that I’m what some might consider a highly sensitive person or HSP. I feel everything. When a person is sharing I can often feel the origin of the trauma and every pause and arrangement of words tells an additional story in juxtaposition to the story that’s being delivered. Things said and unsaid, I consider them all. It’s a great test of boundaries because even though I may want to respond to the entirety of problem, it’s imperative that I show up for people the way that they want to receive me.

One of the most uncomfortable feelings for me is the feeling I get when someone shares something personal and then I have to witness people responding in ways that cause reinjury. For years it was my job to be protective of people in their most vulnerable moments — helping them process and trying my best to support them in ways that they find meaningful. In an effort to help those of us invested in being safe to talk to, I’ve created a list of some of the ways we do harm to the people who sometimes trust us with the most sacred parts of themselves.

The Confi-DONTS: Triggering responses to trauma disclosure

“I’m sure she didn’t mean to hurt you… she was just doing her best”

1. Explaining why the abuse and/or trauma was misinterpreted, unintentional and intending to do good

This is belittling and dismissive. In the best-case scenario, people may sincerely be trying to comfort someone but correcting their interpretation of what they experienced is highly problematic for many reasons. When we experience abuse…

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