Episode 71 Seen Heard Acknowledged

June 14, 2023

Good morning from New York City this morning. I am thinking about the word acknowledgement and there are a couple reasons for it. I think one is related to the story I told on Monday about having received rejection letters on my job search and how good it felt to feel like I’ve been making progress. Because I was acknowledged, even though it was a rejection, it felt good.

Anyway, I was sitting down in the lobby of my building waiting for a friend to come pick me up to go to the theater the other day. It was me and my favorite doorman ,Moe. I was sitting on the bench and a family walked through. It was the mother and father around my age, and I think three adults. After they walked out the door, Moe rolled his eyes at me. I know very well that eyerolling is a very important sign of disdain, and Moe is a very discreet and a professional, proper guy, right? I know him well and I know he trusts me. But he’s the kind of guy that doesn’t cross a certain line, even while he and I have a very trusting, friendly relationship. So, I said to him, so who are those people? What floor are they on, just to open the conversation. He ended up telling me that these people come in and out of the building and never say hello to him or acknowledge him in any way. It was astonishing. He got all heated up and said to me, I can be standing here completely alone. It’s just them and me, and they never say hello or goodbye or thank you.

It got me thinking about two things. One is something I heard from a guy named Chris Voss who wrote the book, ‘Never Split the Difference’. He was a negotiator in high-stakes hostage situations and then parlayed that experience teaching negotiating skills in corporate scenarios. Then something that Oprah said. They are sort of two sides of the same coin. I’ll start with Mr. Voss. One of the things that he teaches is that, no matter what, when you come to the negotiating table and someone states their case – their asks, or whatever you call it –  the very first thing that needs to happen is to acknowledge what was just said. He goes on to explain that they literally can’t hear you until you’ve acknowledged that you heard what they said. He explains how people stay in their own head and stay in their own story, and once you acknowledge that you heard them, they come back and they’re present and can hear you when you speak.

The thing I heard Oprah say …I think she was being interviewed by David Rubenstein of Bloomberg. She was talking about something in the 90s. That’s when she started noticing that every single guest –  whether it was Barack Obama, Beyonce, or the man in prison for life for having killed his twin daughters – every guest said the exact same thing at the end. How’d I do? Was that okay? She started really thinking about it and explained what they were saying to me was, did you hear me? Did you see me? Did what I say mean anything to you? And she started to listen to her guests with the intention of validating them, with letting them know that you’re being here and you’re speaking to me and taking the time to do this with me is important because you matter.

I’m not quite sure where I’m going with this except for to say that this is universal. This need to be heard and acknowledged is a basic human need. We get so much more out of life and out of people and out of our relationships when we validate people. When we acknowledge them, when we let them know they’ve been heard. So for example, when you are in an argument with your partner or receiving the grievances from an employee or a coworker, the single most important thing you can do first – even if you’re furious or feeling like you need to formulate a quick response – you need to stop yourself and acknowledge that you heard what they said. That isn’t always easy. I’m not sure how well I did with Moe the doorman. I did listen and I stopped myself from rushing into bad talk those people because he just needed to be heard. I did my best to acknowledge his frustration and to simply hear him out.

Until next time, from my heart to yours.

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Friends say I live my life out loud. That’s because I’m a curious, adventurous person and, as an appreciator, I simply love to share what lights me up. Consider this is your invitation into my fun, multi-faceted world.

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