The power of being seen and heard - Michelle Gibbings

One of the most powerful human needs is that of being seen and heard. We all want to feel valued, important and that we matter at various times.

This is something that marketers try to tap into all the time, as they strive to personalise marketing offers in a way that resonates with us.

For example, facial recognition software is now being used to personalise offers to customers when they are in-store. 7-Eleven in Thailand is using this technology to identify regular customers and make product suggestions to customers.

The intent is to be able to make targeted offers to customers based on their specific needs.

It’s an interesting concept, but it won’t take away from the value of human interaction – where we take the time to notice the other person, listen to them and find out what they need, rather than waiting for a machine to tell us. When you do that the other person feels valued, and so the outcome of the interaction goes up ten-fold.

From my perspective, it’s an equally important consideration in all facets of your life, including in an organisational and leadership context.

A recent case in point…

I recently experienced two very different attempts to handle customer feedback. Both in a similar context – dining out.

In the first situation, the waiter had no idea how to handle the feedback, and just looked uncomfortable. In the second situation, not only was there a clear process for handling feedback, but our feedback was clearly valued, and they made sure we knew we mattered to the restaurant. We were made to feel very special.

The issue was similar – but the handling of it was vastly different and so my experience and overall rating of the two restaurants was vastly different. One I would never go back to, and the other I would rave about.

In both cases, all I was looking for was acknowledgement that there was an issue. I was looking for human connection.

It’s often the same at work and in our personal lives.

A colleague, a friend or a team member comes to you with an issue, complaint or concern.

You may not be able to fix the issue or agree with their perspective on the matter. What you can do, which can have valuable impact, is make them feel seen and heard, and by doing that demonstrate to them that they matter.

Many times, just by hearing what they say, listening with compassion and showing a genuine interest in what’s concerning them, you’ll have given them exactly what they need.

Taking this approach starts by:

  • Acknowledging that you’ve heard what they are saying, and that this issue matters to them
  • Asking clarifying questions so you can demonstrate that you are actively listening
  • Asking questions with curiosity and wonder, and no judgement
  • Seeking to discover what, if anything, they need from you
  • Accepting that your role is often not to ‘solve’ the issue for them, but to create space so they can ‘solve’ the issue themselves

Doug Larson, an American writer, said: “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk“.

I really like that quote. It’s not a quote by someone who is famous – which also demonstrates that we all have power with the words we use, and don’t use.


Getting you ready for tomorrow, today!

Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian.  Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’ and  ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate your Career’.  For more information: or contact

Publication: |