I was working in Dallas last week with a group of leaders that I had spent a few days with back in November of 2012. As I entered the room on Tuesday afternoon and began to shake hands or give hugs, I thought how good it felt to reconnect. As I shook hands with one person, I said "it's good to see you" and he responded with "it's good to be seen." In the moment, I offered up a little giggle and we moved on to other things. It's good to be seen - five little words that wouldn't leave my consciousness this past week. If those five little words have been bumping around in my brain for seven days, then I feel I must share them with you and have a virtual chat about it. Not only was his response unexpected, but it made me think about what it means to be seen and how often do I really see someone else. As part of my coaching training, we learned that it is important to really "see" your client. People have a need to be seen - not necessarily see what they are doing, but see who they are being. It validates them. You can serve as a witness to who they are being and how they are showing up in the world. When I have a coaching client who has been struggling with a difficult situation, I can't talk to them about how it's going to get better and I can't solve the problem and make it go away. What I can do is say "I see you being sad and discouraged. I see how hard it is for you to keep going. You are a strong person who is determined to ride out the storm." "I see you being a really great listener for your staff." "I see you being a really patient parent." When I say things like that and then watch "it" land on the person, something magical happens. The person feels validated - someone else saw who they are being in that moment. That is powerful!
I know about this skill/technique and I try to use it on a regular basis with others. I know what a difference it can make to have someone truly "see you" instead of exchanging programmed language that can be very impersonal. We can fly through an entire day and talk to a hundred people and still not feel as if anyone really saw us - we may have been just a blur. I am not suggesting that you start "seeing" everyone in your life; that's not my point. What I am suggesting is that there are some people - I bet there is one person every day - who could benefit from you truly "seeing" them and letting them know that you saw them. If I go back to my day in Dallas last week, I was caught off guard become the response was atypical AND it made me think to myself that I had just uttered cliche' words and I had not really seen him. I know better. I can take the time to be in the moment - to be present to how the other person is showing up - to tell them who I see (energetic, sad, thoughtful, kind, engaging, frustrated, courageous, determined, etc.). If I had truly seen him, I could have felt good about him saying "it's nice being seen"; instead, I realized that I had not really seen him. I was not in the moment - I was somewhere else. He deserved better.
Forgive me if this sounds a little preachy - that is not my intent. My intention is to share what has been on my mind and to raise your awareness about the value of seeing others and being seen. If you are not feeling seen, I'm sorry - I hope that someone sees you soon. In the meantime, who do you want to start "seeing"?