There are some truly basic human needs. And of course, I’m talking about emotional/psychological needs vs the shared safety needs of food, shelter, and clothing. Beyond those foundational necessities, people truly want to BE SEEN AND BE HEARD. And most of us want someone to love us and care for us far beyond just paying attention and listening to what we think and say.

    So what happens when those needs aren’t met? And are we truly all that similar? Without being seen and heard our development is impacted and sometimes thwarted. Our beliefs and values are impacted. Naturally every individual responds differently to unmet needs, but as long as we keep in mind that we are so similar at that basic “space” in living life, I think it can have a positive impact on the way we think about the interactions we have with other people — and that we can make choices that benefit everyone IN the interaction.

    Example? Imagine yourself in a meeting where many differences of opinion are being thrown out as a solution to a problem. Can you listen to each without being negative or irritated? Without defending your own opinion? Without arguing? Without debunking the ideas of others? And instead, can you acknowledge all positions from anyone who throws one out? I’m not suggesting you agree with everyone. I’m asking if you can SEE and HEAR each person who wants to express an opinion.

    In my experience in either participating in or facilitating meetings, once all who want to be heard (and seen/recognized) get that chance, then discussion and dialogue, eventually negotiation, can take place. It even helps a great deal to write ideas on a white board or flip chart. Most of us are in too much of a hurry to take the time for a simple, easy process like this. And it does mean that you have to hear some bad ideas! But if people continue to fail to have their voice recognized, tension builds, teams lose respect for one another, work slows down anyway.

    Does the same hold true for the dynamics in families. Absolutely! Family meetings that include every member living under the same roof work. Many clients protest that their 6 year old or 4 year old or hostile teen will just keep the family stuck. Not so if you mean it when you say you want to see and hear every member of the family. Feelings get expressed. Great ideas and sometimes simple solutions come from the most surprising members of the family.

    The catch? It takes time to slow down and listen. To reflect and feel. To try to understand exactly what the other person is saying even when you disagree or think that in fact the idea is stupid! It’s the slowing down and listening that makes the magic. You’ll feel your own impatience, your need to “get on with it.” But there are so many conflicts all over our country that might just be resolved if we could really listen.

    When you hear people yelling to get attention in a large community gathering, you are likely seeing/hearing a person who feels his/her voice has been denied. A person who feels not seen and not heard. And in the case of the current conflicts, injuries, and death in Ferguson, MO there are hundreds who feel not just unseen and unheard but discounted, disrespected, and in danger of losing their civil rights. Pay attention to how hard it is to listen to people who yell in a press conference. I know it’s difficult for me. And I also know the source of frustration of the person trying to ask a question or express an opinion. We need rational voices in every system we interact with — our families, organizations, communities. We need systems that see and hear every individual.

    The way we can participate in making a difference is making sure we are paying attention to those whose lives we touch every day. Imagine the magic of the multiplier effect of just that level of mindfulness!

    If you want to be reminded of all the basic human needs…..google Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

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