“People shine not in the glow of your charisma. They shine in the light of your attention for them. It is from that that they can see their own brilliance. They shine when you remind them that they matter.” -- Nancy Kline
This is the time of the year when acts of giving and receiving are pushed into the limelight. It is the time of the year when lights adorn our rooms, our houses, our trees. There is this other light that Nancy Kline speaks of in her book Time To Think that may be the biggest gift we could give. It is the “light of our attention.”
As a shy child, the adults who stood out to me were the ones who stopped long enough to really listen and see me. The ones who gave me their undivided attention, not because it was the right thing to do, but because they were truly curious about me. They helped me to see in myself what I could not see and, in those moments, I felt my value. I remember at NYU, I had a professor who sat behind his desk, always with a folded newspaper and an unlit pipe in his mouth. He had a full beard and a voice like the late Sean Connery. I don’t remember what the theme of the class was, but he would take a headline from the paper and ramble until his attention landed on someone in the class. He would then ask their opinion based on their life experiences so far. I remember the time he picked The New Yorker magazine up off of his desk and launched into a talk on the significance of their decision to add advertising to the magazine, which had previously been one of the rare ones splendidly devoid of it. He landed on me that day, bringing up something he knew about my parents growing up around Greenwich Village and wanted to know my opinion. I don’t remember what I could have said, being as shy as I was, but what stood out was not that I said anything brilliant, but that he allowed me feel like I must have brilliance inside of me. He was one of many people throughout my life that helped me to glow.
The beautiful thing is that we all have that potential to help other people see their brilliance simply by giving them our wholehearted, uninterrupted attention. This season, I have a gift suggestion and it is not one we can buy.
🎁 Gift Ingredients:
~ When they finish speaking, let there be silence. Allow space for their words to land.
~ Don’t offer suggestions, give advice, or fix; trust they have the answers even if they don’t know it yet.
~ Reflect back what they said using their words and ask if you got it right.
~ Give them more time to say more.
~ Find the nugget of wisdom in what they shared and let them know.
~That’s all. Wrap the gift without becoming the center of it.
To all those people who gave me this attention, wow, am I grateful. May we all do this for each other this season and throughout the year. And when we forget, as I know I do, we simply get to begin again.