“I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen?” (John Steinbeck) from the Jack’s Winning Words blog. You could also state this thought, “I wonder how many people I know that I don’t really know?”
As I get older I’ve become a bit more introspective about thoughts like Steinbeck’s saying. I suspect we all know people that we haven’t really taken the time to see (to know). We may even hang out with them and call them friends or acquaintances, but we really have never taken the time and made the effort to get to know them.
It’s hard with some people to really get to know them, because they might be the types who don’t open up very much or like to share anything about themselves. Many times the circumstances in which we “know” someone don’t facilitate really getting to know them, especially if we know them in a business setting. I belong to a local Chamber of Commerce referral networking group in Milford and we use one-on-one meetings to facilitate getting to know our members better.
For the one-on-one meetings we each commit to meet with another member for an hour long session of getting to better understand that person and their business, so that we can do a better job of giving them referrals. While there is an obvious business reason for the meeting, most members spend most of the meeting time just talking about themselves and their families and lives. It helps to really get to know them better. I haven’t come away from a single one-on-one without a much better understand of that person, as well as an appreciation for what they do for a living.
Most of the time you won’t have the artificial mechanism of a planned one-on-one meeting with someone that you might want to get to know better; however, just a quick invite like, “Let’s get together for a coffee sometime” can provide you with the setting to use to learn more about that person. The key is not to just throw out that line, but to mean it and to follow up on setting a date for that coffee get together.
Of course, one can also take Steinbeck’s message to be that we look at people in a defocused way and don’t “see” what’s there to be seen, written on their faces or in their mannerisms. As we read about tragedies like the recent teenage suicide of a Middle School student, the phrase “I just didn’t see the signs” is used over and over. People were looking at that young man and not seeing his anguish or problems. They didn’t stop and get to know him well enough to be able to intercede by seeing his problems.
Maybe if someone had seen the signs they might have stopped him and asked if he wanted to talk or if they could help. Perhaps they were too consumed walking along and starting down at their phones to notice him. Perhaps we all are too consumed by modern distractions like that which tend to take our focus away from the people around us. Stop and look around you. Whom do you really see when you look?