Being looked at is our greatest sorrow, while being seen is our greatest joy…
A few weeks ago a friend of mine took his son to Legoland. Legoland is like a huge funnel, tantalizing kids with everything Lego-y and then spitting them out at the end in a big gift shop. A trip to Legoland will always end in either a purchase or a temper tantrum. It’s not the kid’s fault. It’s just Lego deftly taking advantage of their kid-ness.
So while my friend and his son were purchasing a set of Legos, his son said, “Thank you” to the young woman working the cash register. She told him he was the first person that day to say “Thank you.” She told him she keeps track of who says “please” and “thank you,” and the average over time is 12%.
Almost nine out of every ten people look at this woman but never see her. And she knows it. I think all of us know it when we’re not being seen.
The Difference Between Being Looked At and Seen
When we post a status to Facebook and fifty people “like” it, we know we’re only being looked at. But when one of those friends calls us up and says, “Hey, let’s grab a cup of coffee and talk about that thing you mentioned on Facebook,” we feel seen.
When our kids are telling us a story and we’re checking emails on the phone or doing dishes or flipping through a magazine, they know they’re only being looked at. But when we get down on our haunches and look them in the eye and get lost in their story, they feel seen.
When my wife tells me about the trouble she had during her day, and I offer a pithy solution that I think will fix everything, she knows she’s only being looked at. But when I take the time to give her more than a drive-by soothing—when I sit in her place of hurt and frustration with her—she feels seen.
Maybe being looked at is our greatest sorrow, while being seen is our greatest joy.