SBM Articles


Being Seen, Heard and Understood

by Judy Ryan

Psychological safety, trauma-informed functioning, emotional intelligence and mental health are common focuses today. At the root of these is the need for deep understanding and establishing conditions that foster peace, joy and love in people so they function at their best and lead with their most generous, supportive intentions. To be seen, heard and understood is at the heart of affirmation, the greatest contributor to positive customer experience, employee experience and your bottom line.

“Affirmation is a three-step process which occurs when one person is the source of unconditional love and emotional strengthening for another person.”
Conrad Baars, Author of Healing the Unaffirmed

The work of LifeWork Systems is fundamentally a response to the powerful contributions of Conrad Baars and Alfred Adler, two incredible thought leaders who recognized the need for all people to feel lovable and affirmed. Affirmation is a kind of love that is felt because it is unselfish, mature and authentic—it does not demand anything first. Only when people have the space provided by those capable of affirmation can they experience themselves as good, worthy and lovable. Only then do they overflow in a similarly unselfish manner with others, including coworkers, family members, friends, neighbors and customers.

Sadly, most people have not received this type of mature, thoughtful love and respect. Instead, neglect and manipulation often lead them to feel rejected and abandoned. They become insecure, depressed and unable to create the friendships and support they need to be empowered, connected contributors. A vicious cycle ensues, accompanied by feelings of inferiority—an often unrecognized dis-ease leading to all manner of negative outcomes. Baars said, “Being affirmed is having one’s goodness revealed to oneself by another.” The following steps are descriptive of key principles of affirmation in the work of LifeWork Systems:

1. Affective presence: Being aware, attentive and fully present with a person is being with them rather than doing for or to them. Many think making people feel lovable is synonymous with giving things, saying things and doing things for them. Rather, it is primarily being with them, with feeling. Our practical applications of affirmation are delivered through concepts and tools taught to entire communities so that deep attentiveness offsets what is often decades of emotional and intellectual neglect.

2. Being moved: To be “affective” is to be moved emotionally. Only by being moved to delight in another’s goodness will they be strengthened, as they are, separate from and before anything they may or can do. Being moved is a felt experience by the other because it is reflected in body language, tone of voice, a warm gaze, and patient, kind energy. Being moved creates something we have all experienced at one time or another: genuine encounter moments (GEMs). GEMs occur when one has humility and a willingness to put aside one’s own needs to offer the gift of full witness to another. More than any technique or tool, being moved to delight in others is the greatest character trait in all extraordinary people.

3. Revealing: A person who is capable of leading others to wholeness is not in self-protection mode. The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. And indifference is a hallmark of self-protection. When one is not only moved by others but also allows the affect to be revealed, it is felt by the other. In our work, this is the teamwork stage we call “empty.” Empty is when one provides deep receptivity (presence); recognition of the gifts and value of another and respect for their uniqueness (both being moved); and disclosure without an agenda to convert, heal or change another (revealing). Empty requires relinquishing insecurities, terrors, prejudices, hatreds and other fear-based, limiting beliefs one has been conditioned to believe and adopt.

Being seen, heard and understood so your people feel lovable may seem like a squishy, take-it-or-leave-it kind of business objective. I challenge you to think deeply about this. After all, why be in business if you and everyone involved does not experience greater peace, joy and love as a result? That’s a question worth considering in the face of today’s painful challenges. Let us see, hear and understand you so we can support you!

Judy Ryan (, human systems specialist, is owner of LifeWork Systems. Join her in her mission to create a world in which all people love their lives. She can also be reached at 314-239-4727.
People hire LifeWork Systems because we help businesses become agile and manage their priority system: their human system. I hope this article helps you make sense of what’s most crucial to your evolving organization!

Submitted 7 days ago
Categories: categoryThe Extraordinary Workplace
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