People want to connect. Above almost any other need, human beings long to have another person truly “see” them.
At its core, “being seen” refers to the acknowledgment, recognition, and understanding that individuals receive from those around them.
But how do we profoundly “see” others and ensure we ourselves are “seen” by those we care about?
My life coaching clients are experiencing this right now:
- Barbara* feels taken advantage of at work by her older more experienced boss. She is not recognized for her achievements, and not part of the ‘in’ group at work. No one knows what she is like or what she has to offer.
- Janet*, a Grief & Loss Coaching client, mourns the death of her husband. We discuss openly, with no boundaries, the heartaches and the challenges of being alone.
How to “See” and “Be Seen”
The good news? “Seeing” and “being seen” are skills we can build! Here are some tips to try right now in your interactions with others:
- Stay curious about other people
- Stand in your truth, but stay open to other views
- Share at an appropriate pace
- Listen mindfully (tips for mindful listening in my previous post, Revolutionize Your Converstions with Mindful Listening.)
- Ask for and offer forgiveness when needed
- Host a gathering where everyone feels embraced
- Appreciate things from the person’s perspective
Part of Barbara’s coaching to handle her challenging work situation is to focus on small, easy steps she can take to “be seen.” Together, we’re building her confidence, and finding concrete ways she can use her voice to get the support and recognition she deserves.
For Janet, verbalizing her feelings to me as her coach, describing what a melt-down is like, and sharing what hits the hardest in her day-to-day grief journey helps her feel “seen” and process her grief in the safe, supportive container of life coaching. From there, we’re working on how Janet can choose to share her grief with others (or not!) without feeling like “a burden” or “a downer.”
Seeing others and being seen ourselves promotes empathy and understanding, fostering an environment where diverse voices are heard and respected. Inclusivity is built on the foundation of recognizing and valuing the unique contributions of each individual, regardless of their background, identity, or what they are currently going through. When people feel seen and heard, it creates a sense of empowerment and encourages active participation in community life.
Be an “Illuminator”
David Brooks’s recent New York Times article describes “diminishers” and “illuminators” in the context of “seeing” and “being seen.” Diminishers are so into themselves, he says, they make others feel insignificant. They stereotype and label. If they learn one thing about you, they proceed to make a series of assumptions about who you must be.
Illuminators are the opposite. They are curious, because they have been trained or have trained themselves in the art of understanding others. They know how to ask the right questions at the right times. They shine the brightness of their care on people and make them feel bigger, respected, lit up.
I’m sharing Brooks’s list of social skills that illuminators bring to the table, because I believe it will make the world a better place. Illuminators:
- Pay attention, and bring out the best aspects of the other person.
- Accompany others, taking their time and simply delighting in another person’s way of being.
- Are great conversationalists. They “listen so hard they burn calories.” They get people telling their stories, loop back and clarify what someone just said, and they keep the attention on the other person.
- Ask creative, uninhibited questions. Where’d you get your name? What’s your favorite unimportant thing about yourself? What have you said “yes” to that you no longer really believe in? How do your ancestors show up in your life?
- Are persistently curious about other people’s views, and how they arrived there.
Check out the full David Brooks article here.
“Being seen” doesn’t just make us feel good, help us win more friends and influence people. The very fabric of society depends upon it. Making the invisible, visible can serve as a catalyst for change, prompting discussions and mobilizing support for causes that might otherwise go unnoticed. It also spreads pure joy around, which uplifts everyone. And don’t we all need more joy?