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Give the gift of truly seeing others
Written by David Lee

A friend recently mentioned how she’d done a project with our mutual friend Amy Wood, an executive coach and author of Life Your Way. This woman said how much she enjoyed working with Amy and then paused, reflecting on their interaction.

She noted how thoughtful it was for Amy to email later to say how much she had enjoyed the experience, too – and why.

“I really appreciated the fact that Amy let me know she enjoyed working together and … that she didn’t just say ‘Hey, you were great.’ She took the time to say exactly what she noticed and why she appreciated it, or thought it was great,” noted my friend.

“Yep…that’s Amy!” I responded, having received similarly thoughtful emails from Amy.

Not only does she take the time to let you know she notices your positive qualities, Amy makes it explicitly clear.

She might write something like, “I really appreciate how closely you listen – that’s so rare in today’s world. Thanks also for being willing to share your experiences with similar situations, without saying ‘Here’s what you should do.’ That’s super helpful. So thanks!”

Amy does what I try to practice: truly seeing others, letting them know she sees them and “celebrating their awesome.”

In our ultra-busy world, where people are usually so self-absorbed in all they have to do and the challenges they face, I believe most people don’t take the time to really see others and let them know that they’re seen.

That’s sad because there’s a fundamental human need to be seen – to feel like we matter enough to others.

Being seen and understood is such an important part of being human, yet many people are starving for this, at work and in their personal lives. I believe that’s one of the reasons so many people “live their lives out loud” on social media – they want to be seen and understood.

Thus, I believe seeing, appreciating – and then celebrating others – is one of the greatest gifts we can give.

In her essay, A Partnership Larger Than Marriage: The Stunning Love Letters of Kahlil Gibran and Mary Haskell, the inimitable Maria Popova addresses this:

“In one of his first letters to Haskell from Paris, Gibran captures what is perhaps the greatest gift of love, whatever its nature – the gift of being seen by the other for who one really is.”

And in The Soul’s Code, Jungian psychologist Dr. James Hillman writes about the gift of being seen:

“Perception bestows blessing… Perception brings into being and maintains the being of whatever is perceived … To ‘be’ is first of all to be visible. Passively allowing yourself to be seen opens the possibility of blessing. So we seek lovers and mentors that we may be seen, and blessed.”

Think about your own experience with a close friend, partner or family member who really “gets you,” in all your uniqueness – your charming qualities, imperfections, quirks, likes and dislikes – what makes you … you! Doesn’t it feel wonderful?

Putting seeing into action

  • Practice paying closer attention to others. Notice what makes them special, what they care about, how they see the world.
  • Look for opportunities to let people know you see their gifts.
  • Refer back to things people share with you that were especially meaningful, interesting or funny. Let them know that what they say matters and has an impact.
  • If someone is wearing a particularly stylish piece of clothing or jewelry, tell them – they clearly put thought into it!
  • If a server or clerk is especially warm and friendly, let them know that you noticed and appreciated it.
  • Be generous with your appreciation for the people in your life. Let them know what they mean to you and why.
David Lee

David Lee

David Lee is a career coach with Heart at Work Associates and a workplace relationship consultant. He is the author of the “Dealing with a Difficult Co-Worker: The Courageous Conversations at Work Series.”