Can You See Me?

We’ve all heard comments about how wearing masks makes it hard to recognize people, especially if it’s someone we weren’t expecting to see. Perhaps even members of your family and closest friends might not be easily recognized. Some people who have been hospitalized with the virus have commented on how difficult it is to see their care-givers approach their bedside all covered up except their eyes, and they can’t really see who it is.

Masks or no masks, it is crucial as a part of a staying healthy to be seen. When we are feeling stress, afraid of the unknown, or unwilling to accept that we are feeling fear and uncertainty, it inhibits our ability to honestly see ourselves and others. We become insular, separate, and incapable of connecting with the very best part of ourselves. When that happens, we judge, we push people away, and we get righteous about what we “have to” and “don’t have to” accept around us.

Why is it important that we be seen?

Some fascinating research conducted by Dan Ariely and his colleagues Emir Kamenica and Drazen Prelec was printed in the HUFF POST in mid-2014. It emphasized how powerful and important a simple gesture of acknowledgement can be in terms of our level of engagement and endurance. They designed a study to examine one’s willingness to work on a task, depending on the extent to which it was recognized by another person.

An assignment was given to each study participant that was simple and repetitive. No deep thinking or calculations were required. Once they completed the task, they were told to walk it up to the attendant in the front of the room, at which time they would be given money for completing it. It was set up to lower the amount of money each time they repeated it and handed it in. The intention from the originators of the research was to discover how long people would continue to complete the assignment.

Participants were given identical instructions of how this would work, then divided into three separate groups. In group A, the attendant would look up and quickly, scan their paper, then file it into a folder. In group B, the attendant received the paper and immediately filed it into a folder. In group C, the attendant received the paper and shredded it right away.

When comparing outcomes in the three groups, those in group A (who had been acknowledged) repeated the assignment more than 1/3 longer than either of the other two groups. There was no significant difference in completion rates between group B (where they’d been ignored) or group C (where papers were shredded). It is also important to highlight the lack of difference between the ignored and shredded responses in groups B and C. In essence, ignoring someone’s work has the same impact as promptly destroying it!

What this demonstrates is how acknowledgement has the profound power to increase the output of simple tasks and increase the motivation of participants to endure. The weight of paying attention to groups/individuals has far more impact than we truly comprehend!

Some take-away concepts during this astounding period of change, uncertainty, call for creativity, and need for collective care includes:

  1. Being preoccupied and “too busy” to attend to one thing at a time, makes you prone to forget to “see the person in front of you.” Make eye contact—even on a screen—and engage.
  2. Take the time to acknowledge the experience each person is having, or the work they have accomplished. Creating a culture of “paying it forward” can reinforce the cycle of motivation and stamina that we all need right now.
  3. Maximize connection in this time of massive change and high stress. Listen to what people are sharing. Pay attention to the wants and needs they are expressing. Acknowledge what you hear sincerely.
  4. Practice compassion for yourself and for others in the myriad trials we are all facing. Recognize our differences and how important these are to acknowledge, one and all.
  5. While interacting, breathe slightly slower and deeper than usual and open your heart to what you are hearing. Stay calm and centered, thereby bringing your very best self to the foreground.

Just a little more kindness, acceptance, and softness goes a long way. Bringing heart and true care to every interaction moves us toward healing our woes, and enhancing our creative spirits to help us through these amazing times in our lives.

Thanks for Listening!