103. 3 Response Mistakes to Avoid When Someone Comes Out to You
“Coming out is still something very challenging for a lot of LGBTQIA+ people. And so it's important to respond in a way that communicates to the person coming out that they're safe with us and they belong with us,” explains host and transformative communication coach Alejandra. When an LGBTQ person is coming out of the closet, the way you respond can either validate their sense of belonging with you or trigger a painful experience of losing that belonging and safety. Today, Alejandra explains the history of the term ‘coming out’ and shares three crucial mistakes to avoid when someone comes out to you.
Even if you don’t intend to shame someone with your response, it is entirely possible that how you react to a person coming out will indirectly cause them shame. Many LGBTQ people have experienced aggression, discrimination, intolerance, and even violence due to their identity. This means that if someone is choosing to come out to you, they are risking their emotional safety based on their belief that you are a safe person to be authentic with. If your response causes shame, this will reinforce their fear of being openly themselves. Additionally, even though you are likely to be curious, it is important to not ask questions about anything that the person does not bring up directly. Coming out is often a very stressful process and it can be even more overwhelming if immediately upon coming out, someone is bombarded with a bunch of intimate questions. Lastly, keep in mind that someone coming out to you is entirely about them, not about you. The other person may perceive your response as invalidating if you make their coming out about yourself.
If someone trusts you enough to come out to you, you owe it to that person to respond in a way that is respectful of the courage it took for them to speak their truth. Through conscious communication, you can respond in a way that strengthens that person’s sense of belonging and safety with you and avoids causing any additional emotional distress.
• “It’s very likely that there are people in your life, people you interact with, who are in the closet.” (2:03-2:09 | Alejandra)
• “Do not shame the person coming out either directly or indirectly.” (9:49-9:54 | Alejandra)
• “Don't ask questions about anything the other person is not addressing.” (11:39-11:44 | Alejandra)
• “When someone is coming out, it is about them. It is not about you.” (12:30-12:36 | Alejandra)
• “Coming out is still something very challenging for a lot of LGBTQIA people. And so it's important to respond in a way that communicates to the person coming out that they're safe with us and they belong with us.” (13:12-13:29 | Alejandra)
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Podcast Music composed by Gary Lapow: open.spotify.com/artist/1HlMhcNfKIELxYil5mVqD