“There is a dramatic difference between being loved and being known,” says Erin Davis, author of the book Connected: Curing the Pandemic of Everyone Feeling Alone Together. “I think if we’re honest,” she says, “few of our Facebook and Twitter followers really know us. Somewhere along the way we’ve lost the know-how to knit our souls to others. That makes us feel lonely.”
It’s one of the heartbreaking realities of our time, about which I’ve written before. It’s hard to deny we are made for relationship–loneliness is not good for us emotionally, mentally, or physically. Even setting aside the increased risk of suicide, loneliness can literally kill us over time. Who knew that having so many “friends” would leave us feeling so disconnected from one another? Being acquainted, liked, and even loved without being truly known is like eating sugar: It might taste great, but it fails to satisfy, it doesn’t give us anything we actually need, and it won’t carry us very far.
Being known, on the other hand, is a substantive and nutritious experience. It may not always be sweet, especially when it’s not mixed with love. But it can give us strength, courage both to be as we are and to change, and confidence to accept our limitations. It can draw us out of the shadows and diminish the monsters we thought lived only in us. Being known also gives us the context we need to really know ourselves.
When people ask me what coaching is about, I don’t tell them it’s about being known. But maybe that should become part of my typical answer. After all, much of the coaching relationship’s power to help people transform, find courage, and become more effective comes from this dynamic. And the more a person is willing to be known, the more effective the coaching partnership will be. In my work with people in this context, I have been consistently amazed at what happens when I really listen and see someone for who they are–and then support them as they become more.
Back when I was in high school, I read the book Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives. In this book, already several years old by the time I read it, John Naisbitt outlined 10 big social forces that were pushing our society in a new direction. I found it fascinating, and it fed my keen and ongoing interest in social science. I don’t know why this particular nugget stuck with me, but this is the claim that most resounded with me–and I’ve thought about it many times in the decades since: “The more high-tech there is, the greater the need for the antidote of ‘high-touch.'” He claimed that, contrary to popular science fiction, as our society became more technology-driven, our need to be connected to one another would not diminish but increase. He warned, “We must learn to balance the material wonders of technology with the spiritual demands of our human nature.”
Naisbitt was right about this and many other things, and the speculation continues. After all, the fundamental experience of being human doesn’t really change. We need to know that we are known. We are flesh, and we need to be seen. We have things to say and music to make, and we need to be heard. Stopping to look and listen is possibly the greatest of gifts we can give each other.
If you’re interested in working with a coach to see what intentional knowing and listening can do for you, I invite you to contact me. But don’t forget that this is a gift we can all give each other. Maybe someone needs you to see and hear today.
© 2015 Amy Simpson.