How to Make People Feel Seen

The Art of Showing Instead of Telling in Relationships

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This article was originally published on HumanConnection.blog. It has been slightly edited to fit the format of Thrive Global.

Stacy: “You could have asked me how I was.”

House: “I already knew.”

-House, M.D.

We want to know the people closest to us. Even more, we want them to know us, deeply and truly.

It’s hard to fully understand another person, but the real problem is that just because we know someone doesn’t mean they know that we know.

Yet it’s more important to feel understood than to be understood.

Dr. House is a super smart guy. As a world class diagnostician, he literally figures stuff out for a living. But people aren’t puzzles to be solved. People are conscious beings with hopes, dreams, goals, worries, and concerns.

One of the primary worries shared by everyone is, “Does anyone truly see me?”

No doubt, House saw Stacy. But she didn’t know he saw her, because he never offered that information, directly or otherwise. His care was almost voyeuristic in its detachedness.

Stacy didn’t feel seen by House.

That’s why to build deep, meaningful connections with the people in our lives we need to go out of our way to ensure they know how much we care.

I advocate for one particular technique: perspective-taking.

But in this article you’re going to get a handful of tips from some of my favorite human connectors.

Techniques from Super Connectors

Talk About Them Behind Their Back

“Praise. That’s how you make people feel seen. You just tell them. Not everyone receives praise well though. Either because of jaded skepticism or insecurity. So instead, try praising them behind their back. When word gets around that you’ve been talking about them (and it will) they will feel more seen and appreciated than if you just told them to their face.”

-Tim David, Author of Magic Words and The Four Levels of Influencing People

www.GoodAtPeople.com

Label It

“One day, a coach called me out on my leadership abilities. She was astonished. “Traca, you don’t know you’re a leader?” At the time, I never thought of myself that way. Her observation not only made me aware of it, but it launched me into an entirely new mindset. If I’m a leader, how do I become an even better leader? Going forward, that became a major focus for me.”

-Traca Savadogo, Relationship Strategist

“Why you should talk to strangers” TEDxSeattle

Stay Curious

“I think a quality of attention which is invaluable now is curiosity. Curiosity with compassion, really. Arrogance and distraction is a terrible combination. And it’s unfortunately a very common one now. Whereas being curious is saying, I have a lot to learn. What could I learn in this conversation?” (S3.1)

-Julian Treasure, Sound & Communication Expert, TED Legend

www.TheSoundAgency.com

Connect Them to Others

“First impressions matter, especially when a new community member joins. One thing that I try to do is to be the first person that greets and welcomes a new member to the Chief of Staff Network. Helping that person better understand the community, and connect them to a like-minded community member ASAP is my goal in helping that person feel seen.”

-David Nebinski, Community Operations Manager at Chief of Staff Network

Twitter

Tell a Story

“When you want to compliment someone or say something nice to them, do it in the form of a story. Pick a moment that was an example of why you care about them, describe what they did and how that made you feel. That is way more powerful than just the compliment alone.”

-Francisco Mahfuz, Keynote Speaker & Story Coach

www.StoryPowers.com

Choose Wisely

“When it comes to connecting with others in a meaningful way, it’s important to be discerning about the people with whom you spend time. Not everyone deserves our company. Our wellness and happiness is connected directly to the people who surround us. If we aim for depth and reciprocity in our relationships, the quality of our connections will naturally improve.”

-Morgane Michael, Author, Podcast Host, Educator

From Burnt Out to Fired Up (book)

Morgane also appeared on the Beyond Networking Podcast S3.6

Leverage Technology

“Being location independent, I travel full-time so keeping meaningful connections in my life alive and thriving is not an easy feat. After many years of living this way, I have found that showing up for them is best done through video messages. Whether it is their birthday, i see them doing something really cool on instagram or they mention they are going through some tough times, taking a few minutes to send them a video message has been the number one way for me to create a beautiful exchange and show them that i am always here for them… no matter where I am in the world.”

-Carolene Méli, Experience Strategist

www.carolenemeli.com

Carolene also appeared on the Beyond Networking Podcast S4.1.

Be Genuinely Interested

“My spouse is an extroverted introvert. Often friends of mine will meet him and say, “He is the most interesting guy.” And I’ll ask him, “So what did you talk about?” And he’s like, “Well, I basically just asked them a lot of questions about themselves.” He will always be the most interesting person in the room because he’s the most interested.” (S2.8)

-Alan Cohen, Executive Coach

www.AlanSamuelCohen.com

Seek Common Ground

“Instead of focusing on what I don’t know, or the things that I don’t understand about that

particular client, I always try to find common ground. It’s really finding out what people’s true motivations are. Don’t just answer their question, answer the question behind their question. You can always get back to: What is important to that person? What values do they hold dear? And how can I really align to those values?” (S2.3)

-Christie Lindor, Management Consultant

www.TessiConsulting.com

Be Explicit

When legendary journalist Cal Fussman came on my podcast, he used a phrase with I’d heard him use in his own interviews. He’d asked me some questions about my audio setup, and after I answered he said, “You just taught me something.”

I said, “Cal, I have to ask you about that. I don’t think you realize how special that is. Is that something you developed on purpose or does it just come naturally from years of interviewing?”

Here’s what he said:

“It’s just authentic. You taught me something. If you look layers deeper, what it really says is that I am really listening to you. Most people do not feel listened to. And when you listen to somebody, and they see that you’re looking straight into their eyes, it gives them a feeling that they don’t ordinarily get.

And so a lot of people think, wow, what’s the question that you asked these people to get these amazing responses, but they don’t realize that a great deal of it happens because they’re seeing how much I’m listening. So, when people ask, “What’s the magic question that will get somebody to open up?” It’s sort of like asking you, “Where’s the make it sound good button?””  (S3.13)

-Cal Fussman, Award-Winning Journalist & Podcast Host

www.BigQuestions.com 

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