I Am Here to Be Seen

Empathy Organizational culture Respect


Key Point: Our CEO and I co-facilitate a day with new hires every month. It’s an important day where we focus exclusively on our culture, including our purpose and values. We also put an emphasis on the significance and skills associated with deep listening and reinforce the notion that the conversation is the relationship and the relationship is the conversation. At the outset, I introduce the rookie cohort to a greeting shared by the Zulu people of South Africa. Robert Holden Ph.D, a psychologist featured on Oprah and other channels, does a great job of outlining the essence of this profound way of connecting (I’ve touched on this briefly in an old blog that longtime readers my remember): 

“The greeting is an invocation spoken in two parts. One part is Sikhona, which means ‘I am here to be seen’; and the other part is Sawubona, which means ‘I see you.’ I usually demonstrate the greeting onstage with a volunteer. We stand facing each other, look deep into each other’s eyes, and then I say, ‘I am here to be seen,’ and the volunteer replies, ‘I see you.’ Next, the volunteer says, “I am here to be seen,” and I reply, ‘I see you.’ To appreciate the power of this Zulu invocation, it is helpful to look at it in four parts.

First, it begins with two people looking deep into each other’s eyes. This is powerful by itself. An uncommon depth of connection is established without any words. Eye contact is akin to soul contact. This sense of oneness always inspires better communication.

Second, the Zulu people believe that when a person says ‘I am here to be seen,’ it invokes the person’s spirit to be present. Saying ‘I am here’ is a declaration of intent to fully inhabit this moment. It signals a willingness to engage with integrity. Saying ‘to be seen’ emphasizes ‘no masks’ ‘no editing,’ and ‘no defenses.’ It means ‘This is the real me’ and ‘I will speak my truth.’ It means ‘I will be honest with you,’ and there will be no deception.

Third, ‘I see you’ is a powerful experience both for the person who says it and for the person who hears it. According to the Zulu tradition, to say ‘I see you’ offers an intention to release any preconceptions and judgments so that ‘I can see you as God created you.’ To hear ‘I see you’ is an affirmation that you do exist, that you are both equal, and that you have a person’s respect. Many people say this is the most moving part of the greeting. Some say it strengthens their resolve to be more authentic and visible in their life.

Fourth, this greeting represents the Zulu philosophy of ubuntu, which translates roughly as ‘humanity toward all.’ Ubuntu is a spiritual ethic that advocates mutual support for ‘bringing each other into existence.’ To practice ubuntu is to help your brothers and sisters remember their true identity, recognize their true value, and participate fully. Ubuntu teaches that our purpose is to be a true friend to one another. Through ubuntu we bring out the best in ourselves and others—it is a training in true leadership.”

This greeting is so powerful. The intent and presence underlying it offers so much promise in advancing the relationship. Imagine if we would ALL do that with each other every day? Just think about looking each other in the eye and the possibilities?

As if it was meant to be, I was recently introduced to Amy Herman. She is a former lawyer, art historian, and now author and teacher of visual intelligence. Law enforcement, medical professionals and organizations literally throughout the world revere her. Her book, Visual Intelligence, will soon to be a FOX (CSI genre) television series. Her view is that the intention of seeing is a start but not sufficient. Her ethos: Sharpen your perception, change your life. Stay tuned to the next blog, where I will connect the Zulu greeting to Visual Intelligence.  

Character Moves:

  1. Even though you might not exactly use the Zulu greeting, show and declare your intention to be seen. This means being comfortable who you authentically are; no masks, no editing, no B.S. Be the real you.
  1. We all have biases and must become aware of them. To really see someone else, RELEASE preconceptions and judgments. Observe, be present, capture exactly what you see and hear before you make up a story in your head. Respect! SEE the other person. 
  1. Ubuntu… We need that in this world now more than ever!

Ubuntu in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Hiding behind computer screens and avatars hasn’t done us Millennials too many favors in the eye-contact department. I often see a lack of it (no pun intended). I was fortunate enough to learn the value of eye contact from a young age, but it’s not a skill that should be taken for granted or forgotten. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis