By Rachel Puryear
One of the deepest universal needs people have is to be seen – and heard – in our relationships with others. This need is so important that it helps make or break the success of, and mutual satisfaction with, just about any kind of human relationship.
Basically, seeing others means just getting them, and them seeing you means that they get you. You feel in sync with one another, and like you belong on one another’s life paths. Like you’re for them, and they’re also for you.
So, what does it actually mean to be seen and heard, and so also see and hear others? Here are the ways in which we can all improve in that respect, and better deepen our relationships:
Young child sitting on her father’s shoulders, making a gesture around her eyes. By Edi Libedinsky.
Sometimes we can be physically present with someone, but not present in other ways. Nowadays, devices are ubiquitous – but even before then, humans still found ways to avoid those right next to them.
Being with someone and making eye contact, using warm and open body language, and focusing on them makes a huge difference.
Being present mentally and emotionally is essential to truly seeing and hearing someone.
Sometimes, we can have an unfortunate tendency to listen, but only to figure out what to say next – or, worse yet, to criticize someone else’s statements and formulate our own arguments.
Being fully present really ties in here, too. When someone else is talking, really listen to them. Focus on them, and consider what they’re saying. Try to determine what they really mean.
Acknowledgement and Valuing Them
We all want, and need, to be acknowledged and to feel valued by others.
We can also start to take others for granted, if we’re not careful. Make a point of continuing to acknowledge what you love about someone else, telling them and showing them how important they are, and appreciating their qualities and also their efforts in your shared relationship.
The Platinum Rule
In childhood, we’re told to mind the Golden Rule – meaning to treat others the way we wish to be treated. There are good reasons for this rule, and it can make sense as a default for how we treat people we don’t know.
However, with people we’re close to and intimate with, it’s better to observe the Platinum Rule – that is, to treat people the way that they want to be treated.
Seeing and hearing someone means treating them how they want to be treated, even if it’s different from what you would want. You are allowed your preferences, and not everyone feels the same way.
Interest and Curiosity
In conversations, we often make the mistake of thinking that we must be interesting, and tell great stories about ourselves.
In fact, the best way to be interesting, is to be interested. Ask others questions about themselves, and again, really listen to them. And of course, be sure to show interest in the stories that they have to tell you.
You don’t have to have all the answers, and solve all the problems. However, validation is important to feeling seen and heard, and to building trust and openness and vulnerability in any relationship.
Validation means believing someone else, taking them seriously, and regarding their feelings and needs and priorities as important.
Follow-Up Through Action
Actions express priorities. There’s no better way to show others that you really listened to them and heard them, than to take action based upon things they told you. This is a very powerful way to make people feel seen and heard.
See Them as They Are, Rather Than Your Own Projections
Sometimes, we have a tendency to project our own ideas of what people are, what we think they should be (consciously or unconsciously), and our biases. This means we might see them other than as how they actually are. Try to be aware of this tendency, and listen carefully to who others tell you they are – and try to accept them as they are.
Letting Them Be Themselves, Without Judgment
One big challenge we all face in life is accepting others, as they are. Sure, it’s easy to accept and embrace the good parts – however, all humans have flaws, irritating habits, and things that frustrate us; and these things can be harder to accept.
Letting someone be as they are, though, without trying to change them to fit our own preconceived molds, is truly seeing and hearing them. Accepting them the way they are now is truly an act of love.
Note: There are some traits in others you should not “accept” – such as abuse and violence, bigotry and fundamentalism, and truly toxic tendencies. This isn’t what I mean when I encourage accepting others.
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- Want to improve your communication and relationship skills, with some fun games? Try:
- 52 Relationships, An Emotional Intelligence Game to build trust and support to transform understanding.
- Loaded Questions Party, a slightly edgier getting-to-know-others game that moves past the small talk.
- Emotional Roller Coaster: Anger Management Board Game for Kids & Families, to help kids better learn how to process their anger.
Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Here’s to seeing and hearing others, and to also being seen and heard ourselves. If you enjoyed this content and want to see more of it, please hit “like” and subscribe, if you have not done so already. xoxo
Check out my other blog, too – Free Range Life, at https://freerangelife.net. It’s about road trips to parks and other cool places to see, how wealth is built and lost – including things we should all know about finances, ways to build more remote/passive income streams, and van/RV life essentials.
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