Do you see me? Do I matter?
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One of my favorite hobbies is people watching–at airports, in restaurants, in meetings, in stores, at parties–wherever people tend to gather. I watch to see how people interact with each other and the rest of the world. I watch them scurry about their over-scheduled lives. I watch which social media posts get the most attention-usually pictures and stories of children or pets or family celebrations. I watch people move through grief and joy, through beginnings and endings.

As I’ve observed and listened, I’ve come to two conclusions:

  • In a world full of increasing distractions, divisiveness and disconnection, people seem overwhelmed, reactive, and fearful.
  • Many seem to be craving connection–to find meaning and purpose in their lives and to have real relationships, not just “friends” or “followers”.

My dear friend and mentor Jean Otte says that what’s missing in this fast-paced, high tech world is the human experience–the ability to connect personally with other people, to feel that an interaction was worth the time, to feel that they are noticed and valuable.

I believe there are two questions we care about when interacting with others:

Do you see me?

Do I matter?

These seem to be universal questions or needs – professionally with colleagues and bosses, personally with friends and family, or spiritually with volunteer or personal growth activities. Whenever I’ve shared these questions in leadership workshops, heads begin to nod and it sparks a conversation about how to connect more deeply with those we lead.

So how can we connect more deeply? How can we let others know we see them and that they matter?  Here are some ways to get started.

Be earnest

This means being fully present and sincere with others – genuinely tuned in to them so they feel heard and understood, and that your interaction with them is the most important thing to you at that moment.

Speak kindly to others

Instead of being curt or focusing only on a transaction, really notice those you come across each day – at work, while shopping or traveling. Make a point to be polite, to say please and thank you and to let them know you appreciate how they helped you. Whenever I do this, I find that the response is often one of surprise, which illustrates how infrequently people exchange pleasantries. Sigh…

Write a note of thanks

Each week, write a note or two, to let others know how they made a difference for you – what they did and why it mattered to you. Handwritten notes are most effective, but an email or text with genuine sentiment is also appreciated.

Turn off technology and tune into the world

Most people (myself included) spend too much time looking at phones or posing for pictures to post on social media. Schedule and/or limit your time online. Silence your phone and put it away when with others. Reach out and invite someone for coffee or tea. Take a walk or bike ride with a friend. Share a meal with a colleague, friend or family members. Get involved as a volunteer. The point is to stop looking at your phone or computer, and start looking at other people.

Really engage with “friends” on social media

Instead of just “liking” or sharing a post, write a comment about how you connect with the sentiment of the post. When writing your own posts, consider how they will “land” on others, visualizing how the reader will receive your comment. Start a dialogue with your connections on social media.

Setting an intention to really see people and let them know that matter will change how you engage with others, reaping benefits for both your relationships and your state of mind. Try it, and let me know how it works for you.

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2 Comments

  1. Deb
    Thank you! I’ve always have believed people don’t care about who you are or how smart you are, until they know and believe you care about them!

  2. Deb!

    Well-thought, and well-written!

    Bob

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