Several weeks ago, someone that I consider to be a peer asked me for guidance on something that I have no expertise or really any knowledge about. I communicated quietly, nonchalantly and without hesitation that I couldn’t help him. Not only did I not know enough about the context or the situation, I also didn’t know enough about the topic in general to provide any help. The stakes were too high, this was an important situation and the decision he needed guidance about could be trivial if played well, yet extremely harmful if not.
After my quiet yet thoughtful response to his request he insisted I help him. I, curtly, declined again. He insisted once again, and I became impatient. My voiced elevated a bit and my tone and cadence was testy at best, bordering on angry. I began with, “I just told you…you aren’t/don’t listen to me…” He then tried to end the conversation/change the subject, yet in doing so his language put the onus on me for not WANTING to help him, rather than what I was actually saying which is I COULD NOT help him (read: I actually don’t have the ABILITY to effectively help).
He kept insisting that I “have style” and so I could and should help him choose something stylish to wear. I shared with him that I know nothing of style. I simply put together things that I believe reflect my inside, what I feel, what the situation and context call for. His language kept reflecting that he felt I was refusing to help him when I was able to do so.
This has me reflecting on the nature of relationships/interactions in general, and then also about the nature of patriarchy. We’ll deal with the issue of patriarchy later, and thoroughly. Yet, the interaction highlighted something about leadership that I must grapple with civically, professional and, so it seems, personally.
How can anyone lead you if they don’t see you? How can you lead anyone if you don’t see them? Even if we prioritize following, rather than leading: How can you follow someone, trust them and have faith in them, when they don’t see you? How can you lead someone, know and serve their needs, if you don’t see them?
What should one do when interacting with someone who does not SEE you? How does one go about SEEING those around them? We often place an emphasis on listening (and in some respects hearing), yet can one accurately do either without first and/or simultaneously SEEING?
When I say seeing, I don’t mean reflecting. I mean clear, unadulterated, unclouded observation. Looking at someone and taking them in without addition or subtraction. In someone ways seeing without processing, instead simply imprinting. It takes multiple interactions to SEE someone, including observations of them interacting with others without (interacting with) you.
Additionally, how often do we see ourselves in this way – clear, unadulterated, unclouded observation of ourselves?
When was the last time you did not process yourself, measuring yourself against some standard or expectation?
Whether observing our ego at work, our social self or what our true self does when no one is watching, when was the last time you SAW yourself, actually looked at yourself?
When was the last time you made an imprint of yourself? Just looked at yourself, your actions, your behaviors, your thoughts and just watched them…
In the words of one of the most iconic commercials of my childhood, I’d venture to say that for most of us, “…well that’s too long.”