I live with and love three of them. By stuffer, I mean a person that tends to suppress their emotions. My stuffers sometimes frustrate me and make me feel helpless. I’m a reasonably good listener and definitely make myself available but sometimes, they just don’t want to talk about it. If you have a stuffer in your life, it is no accident. They need you – really they do. How do you minister to a stuffer?
>First, be prepared to spend time waiting. A stuffer must know that you will wait as long as it takes. They will release little puffs of information as they are ready.
>Second, you must be in full listening mode. Don’t worry – you will have plenty of time between puffs to formulate your response.
>Third, you must not interrupt them once they are ready to talk. They must be able to complete their thought all of the way through.
>Fourth, you must never respond with unhealthy criticism or judgment. A stuffer will clam up if they sense this. Before you speak, ask yourself whether or not it is helpful or even necessary. Often, we verbalize what is our opinion and it should really be kept to ourselves.
>Fifth, once they have completely finished – ask open ended questions to encourage more dialogue which will also round out your understanding. Don’t require them to answer. It might be helping them to roll your question around in their mind.
>Sixth, you must be trustworthy. Your stuffer must be confident that you will not tell others.
>Finally, you have to accept that they may never open up. Sometimes, they can’t or won’t. Just pray for them.
Stuffing down emotions and feelings can be an inherited trait but it can also be a learned behavior. Some stuffers have learned to keep it inside because they have felt emotionally unsafe. Other stuffers feel that it is a waste of time and energy to hash things out verbally. They prefer to work things out in their head and then be done with it. Either way, you can be a key to getting a stuffer to open up and realize the benefits of sharing their burdens and lightening up their load. A problem can seem huge in our head and much smaller once we have shared it with a trusted person.
I’m a work in progress and I’m much better at this now but I definitely can improve. Would you join me in putting these techniques into action and be the trusted person who is willing to wait as long as it takes?