FIT@50 / Week 91: I See You

FIT@50 / Week 91: I See You

Our kids are well, kids. They rattle on when they should just hush and shut down when they should shine. But alas, they are kids. I’d say for the most part they are pretty socially capable. Relatively speaking of course. After all, the boys are 7, 9, and 10.

They’ve all noticed I enjoy talking with people. The 13 year old calls me mister sociable, and then the 7 year old stumbles over the pronunciation of “sociable” to ask what it means. She smacks of early teenage condescension, “It means he talks a lot.”

Ahhhh, 13.

I’m happy they take notice.

What Leah Silverii and I teach the kids is to see people. I’m sure you understand what I mean, but to children, they are working to understand the difference between, “Watch out for that person,” and “Watch that person.”

I don’t talk to people just to fill space or hear myself pontificate over the weather or current state of affairs. I enjoy seeing them. It may be just a smile and hello, or a chat about travelling circuses. The subject matter doesn’t matter. It’s about making a human contact.

What does matter is making a human connection. It starts because my head is always up and my eyes are always looking forward. First is the cop in me. I visually scan everything. The second part is the benefit of making eye contact. It never fails to connect with someone else.

Once that visual connection is made, words naturally flow after a smile. And that is the simple art of being mister sociable.

There are folks who’ve not been seen their entire lives. Others who feel the weight of no longer being seen. Either side of the coin, it’s a horrible feeling to traverse this life invisible to everyone around you.

Since I retired from a very public position, and moved to an entirely different state, I could easily see how becoming one in a sea of anonymous anybodies could negatively affect you.

Going from instantly recognized, to one of the crowd in a big city was odd for me. I was used to the uniform serving as an instant ticket to enter into any conversation. Now, no one had a clue who I was or what I once did.

What I discovered was the most critical point of being social. It wasn’t the uniform, or the job, or the familiar locale. It was having my head up, eyes open and being receptive. I’ve always looked to see others. I cherish making the connection and the follow up with a few encouraging words.

I’m glad our kids see this. We want them to understand the value of being seen, but more importantly, seeing others. Everyone has value. Their exterior may be presented in faded jeans and a flannel shirt, or an expensive business suit, but it’s what in and behind the eyes that matter most.

Every holiday season is a challenge for me to minimize the seasonal depression that has plagued me since my teens. This year is no different, but without the facade of a uniform and shield, I’ve enjoyed more than ever being wide-eyed and sociable as me, and not the police chief.

Another wonderful benefit of seeing is also being seen. Give it a try. Don’t just look at someone. Look into someone. Each has a story to share. Maybe they’ll bless you with it if you hang around just a bit.

I See You.

Do Good,

Get Rid of Cookie-Cutter Solutions!

class pic

NOTE: I heard about this school photograph earlier and it absolutely broke my heart. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the16percent, and as always they did a great job incorporating this event into positive teaching moment.  

Get Rid of Cookie-Cutter Solutions!

By the16percent on June 21, 2013

A story about a class photo that I read this week tuned me into how crucial it is to cater to the unique needs of people—and not hand out cookie-cutter solutions.

It was an article on Yahoo! about Miles, a 2nd grader in a wheelchair who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

When the class portrait was sent home to his mother, she was mortified. Look at the photo above. You probably already noticed the issue at first glance, but as the article reads:

“Miles knows he’s different than the rest of the kids, but he still tries to fit in. So there he is, on the far side of the image, neck craning as far as he can to stretch into the frame with the rest of his friends. He’s beaming. It’s school picture day and he’s thrilled.

But the photo still broke [his mother’s] heart. The photo was a clear example of how set apart her son is from society. Instead of a big group hug photo with Miles at the center, and classmates and teachers all around, a fully inclusive image, he was stuffed off to the side, some 3 feet away. An after thought, it seems.”

If the photographer would have just gotten out of his or her “template” state of mind, the mistake would have been avoided. How hard would it have been to change the arrangement of the students so that Miles would not look like the oddball?

It’s this “cookie-cutter” mindset that makes some employees feel like outsiders, which can lead to them disengaging from the company or leaving altogether.

You’re going to work and interact with different kinds of people in your lifetime—all kinds of races, ages, personalities, backgrounds, and experiences—but you can’t think that one standard treatment will relate to all of them.

Maybe the introvert won’t do well at company parties, but will strive at a one-on-one lunch. Maybe a brainstorming meeting won’t spark conversation as well as a suggestion box will for some in your organization.

Yes, you need to push people outside of their comfort zones sometimes, but there’s a difference between helping an individual develop and inhibiting growth by not knowing the individual’s limits.

class pic 2Okay… back to Miles. His parents voiced their concerns about the picture (and the story made national headlines), so the class portrait was retaken; and Miles fit in great with the other students.

All it takes is a little bit of consideration to each situation you encounter to make a big impact on every member in your organization.

Hope Boyd Written by: Hope Boyd

 Director of Communications,

 Strategic Government Resources