It started roughly 10-years ago.

Seeing People

It started roughly 10-years ago.

Seeing People

by admin

Seeing people

Seeing People

It started roughly 10-years ago. I made a commitment to say hello to people I passed by on the street or on the hiking trail. It was my way of acknowledging others and connect with them in a small way. Doing so compelled me to “see” them more fully than I otherwise would have.

My new habit ended up making me much more aware of other people. People that, shamefully, I had not noticed in appreciable ways before; passersby, baristas, store clerks, or servers, among others.

“Seeing” these people more fully and offering them a friendly greeting frequently led to warm greetings in return. Sometimes this even led to interesting conversations with enjoyable rapport.

However, those are not the reasons I engage in the practice. Mostly, I remain unattached to the outcome. I desire to offer acknowledgement to others and put forth positive energy into the world. My focus is on giving, not receiving.

What prompted this behavior change? I initiated my commitment to address and make eye contact with people after reading the Rules of the Red Rubber Ball, by professional speaker and former Nike executive Kevin Carroll.
Early in the book, Carroll recounts the story of being admonished by his mother for not saying hello to a person they had passed on the street. He was told emphatically to never let it happen again.

Not only did Kevin heed his mother’s advice on his walks in public, he brought it into the workplace and all other facets of his life. He contends it has been a major contributor to his success.

Work by the Arbinger Group and its book, The Anatomy of Peace, deepened my dedication to a “greeting practice.” The book describes a tendency for people to sometimes view others they encounter as “objects,” as means or obstacles to getting what they want and little more. Discounting their humanity, we see their humanness as somehow being less full than our own.

Through this newfound perspective, I realized I engaged in the practice of objectifying people (as opposed to humanizing them) much more frequently than I would have thought. I did not like it.
Making a concerted effort to consistently acknowledge people acts as an antidote to this inclination. Doing so keeps me open and receptive to the possibilities of connection.

The times we are living in make connecting with others more difficult. We engage in fewer physical interactions, and when we do interact with others, we are usually wearing masks and/or keeping our distance. We are fearful of the implications of making connections, and yet we yearn for them.

I am the only thing that prevents me from “seeing” others. The opportunities to acknowledge those I encounter by simply saying hello, smiling, nodding, or waving to them are endless. Making eye contact, when possible, is key.
The benefits of these small affirmations are amplified as they are passed on to others. “Seeing” others leverages positivity. It shows people that they are seen and that they matter. Consequently, it has an outsized impact on us, the people we meet, our communities, and the world.

When I refrain from acknowledging others, I cut myself off from them and hold back from making uplifting contributions to their days. I may do this in a rush to get things done, a preoccupation with myself and my own thoughts and feelings, or in other ways. However, it is always my choice. I can choose whether to make saying “hello” to everyone a habit or not.

Unexpected gifts I have received from initiating this practice of “seeing” others include a better understanding and appreciation of people, a recognition of our inter-relatedness, and a greater sense of well-being. It adds to my perspective and shifts my focus outward.

The attributes of empathy and compassion, like the muscles in our bodies, can be developed and strengthened. It requires effort. Applying this one simple habit can be the catalyst: an example of the multiplying influence each of us can initiate.

I cannot think of a more important time for people to engage in this tradition in service to others then right now. Won’t you join me in “seeing” people as a daily practice to spread connection and acknowledgement?
Robert Hackman is the founder and principal of 4C Consulting, an Executive Coaching and Consulting company that helps companies and people retain and restore trust during a pandemic. He can be reached by voice or text at 484.800.2203, or email at,

Picture by: Harry Quan, on