Seeing is a kindness. Understanding a blessing

There is much that is wrong with the world, sadly we see awful events in the news far too often.

However, I find one thing heartening alongside these terrible acts, something that always seems to happen spontaneously: we have an instant and deep need to tell stories about the people who’ve left. We talk about what they loved and their funny little quirks and weird habits. Whether it’s a distraught parent on TV talking about a missing teenager or a full on traditional Irish wake — we always remember people as they really were.

And this is true in the non-tragic moments — I believe there’s something beautiful in seeing someone fully, it allows them to be completely themselves. It’s one of the most intensely beautiful things we can do for another human.

To be seen, truly seen, is such a basic requirement that when it’s denied us, we curl into ourselves and hide away. Think of the pain of having to hide your true gender, your sexuality, your religion, or even just the awkwardness of loving an painfully uncool band. Hiding this part of ourselves hurts us at a fundamental level — almost a soul level. When we can express ourselves fully we often look younger as our defences fall away. Being around people who understand us means everything.

Worse, when we’re not understood, there’s a moment of jangling confusion when we doubt everything. This happened to me recently when someone observed I was ‘obviously driven by money and being the centre of attention’. I was stumped, nothing could be further from my personality. I don’t even like the word driven: I have drive, I’m not driven.

But instead of shrugging off this daft comment and moving on, I did what most of us do at that point, I went inwards and questioned what on earth I was projecting into the world that she saw this? For that moment I really questioned myself. It helped when I realised she’d just seen me give a talk on how to increase revenue in your business (and, of course, when you speak you can’t help but be the centre of attention). That’s where she got ‘money and attention’ from, when it was really ‘love of sharing knowledge’ and ‘a strong desire to help’.

I spend time every day really working on understanding and listening to the people around me. I do it in my personal life and, naturally, in my coaching work. I truly believe this is one of the kindest things you can do for another person; that when we can show we’ve seen someone completely, there’s a worthy exchange.

Years ago when I worked 14 hour days for months at a time in film — I had no time for charity work. I couldn’t give back by volunteering as I literally barely had enough time to eat and sleep as it was. So to give back I’d make a point of deeply listening to my friends. I’d make the effort to understand their situation, to empathise and simply reflect what I saw.

At the time I thought it wasn’t much compared to actually doing something tangible -ladling out soup to the homeless or giving huge chunks of cash to worthy causes — but now I understand it was every bit as important in it’s small way. It was the beginning of me becoming a coach, but also the start of me becoming a copywriter.

Because just as listening to your friends is important, it’s vital you do so to your clients. It’s almost a moral requirement. That might sound overly strong — but as humans one of the thing we need most is to be understood and if you can do it in your personal life it’s as required ethically in your business.

This is why I believe client avatar work is so important in a business. The big brands and agencies I’ve worked for know this, but it’s true for every size of business. When I go deep to understanding my ideal client — their motivations, their secret fears, their unspoken desires — I write copy that speaks to them so clearly they feel I’m inside their head. That level of understanding means that, sure, I can create products they want — but I can give people that feeling of being deeply understood. I often get emails saying ‘how did you know?’

Having this depth of understanding about my clients has changed my business and it can do the same for you. This is why I’m so passionate about understanding your ideal client. Sure, avatar and ideal client work has become something of a trope in business but it doesn’t have to be. When we do the research to deeply understand the pain of the people we work with; what drives them, what keeps them up at night, what they’ll admit to keeping them up at night (which is so often something completely different). This is the continuation of the human work of simply seeing and understanding another human.

Don’t skimp on this. Go deep, do the work and you’ll not only reap the rewards in your business with increased sales — you’re allowing other humans to relax and feel that here, finally, is a place we’re understood, a place to unfold, our tribe; we’re home.