When I sat down to talk about podcasts with Sydcast host, Sydney Finkelstein, I had a general outline for what the interview would entail. I was hoping to cover my standard questions, get some tips for my readers, and maybe a tidbit or two that I hadn’t expected. It was going to be a straightforward piece. But, oh, when will I learn? Instead, he took me on a roller coaster that had me rediscovering why I started writing in the first place.
I See You
The interview was going as planned. We went through my standard stuff — how compensation can be more than financial and, even when money is involved, how little it can sometimes be. It was all familiar territory… and at the very end he threw me a curve ball. He told me about an interview he once did with a father. This father had lost his 17-year-old daughter and spoke about that loss, the aftermath, and isolation. He wasn’t asking for special treatment. He knew people had lives outside of his pain, but it almost seemed like his pain had made him invisible to others. The primary thing that this man wanted was for people to say, “I see you.”
So, Sydney told me about how this interview strengthened his values as an interviewer. He always strove to listen without an agenda. He wanted to curiously delve into engaging topics with an interviewee. He had already experienced firsthand how an interview could be ruined if one or both parties came in with an agenda. What if, instead of an agenda, he came in really trying to see the person. What if, instead of curiosity about just the topics, he wanted to also understand the person behind the ideas — not to label them or put them in a box as we so often do for the sake of simplicity. It was a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions created from a simple phrase. As he spoke it became clear that this interview had clearly been special to him. His tone and energy caught me and took me on the journey with him.
The Ripple Effect
And there I was on this unexpected journey. I couldn’t get this story and its effect out of my head — this story that had turned my oh-so-simple blog article on its head. This father’s plea — I could now hear it echoing in myself and on the face of those around me.
It led me back to my roots as a writer. As Peace Corps volunteer, I wanted to understand those around me, and then be a conduit to help others understand, too. I was immersed in a foreign culture, and used my writing to share what I saw, and not from a safe distance. It was what I saw in my day-to-day life for two years. There was no separation and no protection. I truly saw. However, many years removed from that and with so much of our world digitized, it was easy for my vision to slowly get hazy.
Now, my dear reader, it is your turn to determine your path. Will you choose to see? Be forewarned, once you start, the journey is not easy. First, it might be someone straightforward like the person who hands you your morning coffee. Perhaps next you will see your mentally ill friend. Then what about the homeless person you walk past every day? What if next you see the person behind the social media messages you have deemed offensive? What if, in this increasingly divided world, we stopped and truly looked at one another? Would we hold our tongues for a moment longer? Would fingers hover above the keyboard for another minute as we choose our words more carefully? To say “I see you” to those we love, hate, ignore, don’t understand, those not only far but also very near — imagine the power and change those three words could hold if spoken in truth. What will you choose?
Jacquelyn Adams is a career development enthusiast and an award-winning CEO. She lives in a world of constant exploration, whether it’s summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, delving into more effective employee training strategies… or discovering how she’d do in a chocolate eating contest (answer: last place). Find more of her Lessons on Leadership articles here or connect with her on LinkedIn here.
Becky Pocratsky recently started working as a freelance editor and writer. She works from home with her two sweet (loud, energetic, help me!) daughters. Also she is a super geek who went to Hobbiton on her honeymoon.