the importance of being seen dog

The Importance of Being Seen

I am not a dog person.  I didn’t even particularly like them…until I got my own.  And honestly, now it’s ridiculous.  My kids complain I love her more than them.  And I’m not the only offender.  My husband definitely loves her more than me.  (I totally understand.)  But why?  She reliably delivers on what humans so often fail to: the importance of being seen.

Think about it.  She hardly has any expectations of us beyond food, water, and exercise, and she provides us with unfaltering love and attention in return.  A perfect example of this is her way of welcoming people home.  Every time I come home, she interrupts what she is doing (usually sleeping), runs to me, and showers me with enthusiastic kisses.  She “sees” me.

I, on the other hand, often find it difficult to turn away from my monitor long enough to say a quick hello when my family comes home. It’s no surprise that they are happier to see the dog than me.

“Being Seen”–Defined

The concept of “being seen” can get quite complex.  It is discussed in a wide array of forums including, but not limited to, equality (seeing others as individuals versus stereotypes), well-being (its effect on our happiness and mental health), and even the workplace (“seeing” your employees: a leadership skill).     

Feeling seen is a state in which a part (or parts) of our identity, emotions, needs, and/or physical presence get fully recognized through various means—such as representation, validation, support, and/or inclusion.

Kirk Pineda

But let’s simplify it.  “Being seen” is being recognized, accepted, and appreciated.  It’s feeling a sense of existence and belonging.  Everyone deserves to be seen.

Something to Consider­–Are you “seeing” the people in your life?

In this enormous world of ours, it is inevitable that our choices, opinions, and values will diverge from one another.  Wouldn’t it be boring if they didn’t?!  All living beings deserve respect.  Kindness is rooted in respect and connection.  Kindness is searching for common ground and trying to “see” each other.

So, here’s something to think about.  Are you “seeing” the people in your life?  All the people?  Even the ones you don’t agree with or don’t like?

Making the Time

You may be thinking you don’t have the time or energy to “see” everyone.  I get it.  The concept seems time and emotionally intensive.  Sure, the more you give to making others feel like they matter, the deeper the impact will be.  But consider this: even incremental improvements, like making eye contact, will improve connectivity.  And that takes no time at all.

Ideas to “See” Better

Connecting with the people in your life, “seeing” them in a more meaningful way, will have an impact on them and you. Here are some ideas on how to “see” others better – for even the busiest of us.

“I Have Zero Time for This.”

1.  Respect everyone.  You don’t need to schedule time for this.  It’s a change in mindset.

2.  Make eye contact.  Someone brings you a document at work–look up at them, in the eyes, and say thank you.

3.  Put your phone away.  When you get to the cash register, put your phone away, and do #2 above.  (The people behind you in line will be happy about this too as your check-out will be completed more quickly.)

4.  Stop multi-tasking; try double-tasking.  Instead making breakfast, half-listening to the news on TV, and half-listening to your child talk about their day ahead, just try making breakfast and whole-listening to your child.

5.  When you do something courteous for someone, like hold the door or step out of the way at the elevator, look at the person and smile.

    “I Can Spare a Few Extra Minutes in My Day for This.”

    1.  Do the things above.

    2.  Consider authenticity.  If you’ve decided to take a few minutes to engage with someone, do it meaningfully.  Are you looking in their eyes?  Are you actively listening? What is your body language saying?

    3.  Learn someone’s name; remember it; use it.  Think about the people you see regularly–do you know their names?  Your mail carrier, the security guard at work, the bus driver, the person who works reception at your gym.

    4.  Level-up your acquaintances.  You know your colleague’s name but little more–inquire about their hobbies or interests.  Your babysitter is finishing up high school–which senior activities are they most looking forward to?

    5.  Be more curious.  A good rule of thumb is to do more inquiring, more listening…try to be more interested.  You may find that life is more compelling for you too.

    “I Want to Spend Time Improving How I “See” Others.”

    1.  Do the things above.

    2.  Educate yourself.  Taking the initiative to improve our own understanding makes it easier to open our minds to others’ perspective–without burdening them with enlightening us.

    3.  Put your curiosity into action.  Now that you have new knowledge of the interests of the people in your life, what can you do with it?  You found out your babysitter is chair of the decorating committee for Prom.  Share that Pinterest page you ran across that might be useful.

    4.  Practice gratitude.  Consider the people that make your life easier.  How can you acknowledge their actions?  What can you do for them?

    5.  Foster connection through kind acts.  Focus on creating the habit of kindness.  Your kind acts will translate into connection and result in others feeling seen. 

    The Importance of Being Seen

    Dignity and respect are basic needs of living beings.  Making even a small effort to acknowledge those around you helps fulfill those needs.  Take a moment to evaluate how you can “see” the people in your life better and start making a difference in their lives and yours.

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