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Learning to See People

By February 13, 2020Leadership

When it comes other people, there is what we see and what could see. Too often, we make judgments or decisions based only on what we see … a rowdy child, an unkempt stranger, a rude person in the checkout line, a socially awkward person.

Because our brains are inherently lazy and prefer to take shortcuts, we make many snap decisions. Not all are bad. It’s why we brush our teeth or shave the same way each day. We don’t stop to think about which direction we should go.

While this might make more efficient at brushing my teeth, it doesn’t always improve my ability to relate to other people.

As a husband, parent, friend, and leader, I must be able to not only see people as they appear to be … but to also see them as they could be.

This requires slower thinking. It requires exploration and reflection. In short, it requires work.

Even though it takes work (and patience!), all good parents are able to see beyond the irrational, immature behavior of a toddler and see a child with the potential to sit still, be kind, and contribute to the world.

Good leaders do the same thing. Not all talent comes to your team fully developed. In fact, if it is — there may not be much more room for growth. Instead, a good leader has to see potential and know how to bring it out.

Empathy requires the same set of skills. An empathetic person doesn’t just react to external behavior. An empathetic person tries to see the unseen, the hidden triggers or motivators that lead to external behavior.

Years ago, I came across this wonderful quote from Michelangelo, the great Italian artist, about how he approached his art:

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

One person sees only marble.

The artist sees the angel.

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