I need to be noticed. I may not tell you in words — I may tell you in my behaviour; e.g. I may cry, withdraw or retreat.
I need you to know I chose to tell you. I was probably either in desperate crisis, or I spent time considering who I could tell before I chose you.
I need a place to talk that feels safe.
I need your undivided attention.
I need your body language to communicate receptiveness, calm and patience.
I need time to find the words, and I need to be able to tell you in my own words.
I need to be listened to, not just heard, and I need this to be evident in your attentiveness and time with me.
I need to feel sure that my story is safe with you.
I need to sense your respect for me despite what I may feel about myself.
I need to be treated with and shown compassion.
I need to feel and be safe, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Our churches should be a reflection of God, who is our refuge and strength. We may believe that our churches are safe spaces, but there is always more we can do to signal that people are safe to be themselves and tell their stories. Just like God, we need to be ‘very present’ when people share their experiences. We need to be attentive to the whole person, and hear what is said and unsaid. Being very present means taking the time to listen well and respond with compassion.