The ‘I See You’ Experiment

hesher2 1 The I See You Experiment

Image from the movie, "Hesher".

Check out this social experiment, from guest blogger Katherine Wakefield — and let us know what you think and whether you’ll participate!

I am starting a social experiment. Me, a stranger-danger introvert; yes, me. It happened organically today and went well. As I was checking out at the grocery store, I felt warmth and happiness from the checkout girl. I looked at her nametag and felt compelled to call her by name and say thank you. I repeated her name over and over in my head as I swiped my card to pay. Our eyes did not meet when she handed me the receipt, but I still said, “Thank you, Maggie.”

I could tell a shy and embarrassed smile crossed her face as she turned to the next customer. Yet, that smile was there because I “saw” her, called her by name and acknowledged her personally.

As I drove home, I pondered my experience, thinking, “I bet I could really brighten someone’s day, catch them off-guard when they are tired and cranky.” You know, those employees that are desperate to go home, just having a bad day. I wonder what would happen, even in the face of their tiredness, if someone would only acknowledge them, see them and call them by name. Could the appreciation and compassion that comes from personalizing the experience help them get through their shift, day or even life?

The answer is YES — A resounding YES!

Perform the experiment to see for yourself. The next time you are in a store checkout line and your salesclerk appears to be having a humdrum day, do this:

1. Ask for their name (or learn it from their name tag).
2. With a smile on your face, look the person in the eyes.
3. Finally, say: “Thank you [name] for helping me today (or whatever interaction you had).”

That’s it — That’s all you have to do to brighten person’s day. Simply let them know you see them, and they will instantly remember that they are appreciated, and they are loved!

~ Katherine Wakefield


i see you experiment katherine wakefield susan cain The I See You ExperimentIf you can’t wait for your next visit to the store to try this social experiment, use social media to virtually appreciate someone.

Here is a sample message for you to copy/paste, fill-in the blanks and send:

[Name]… #ISeeYou [have/are] [acknowledge their action you appreciate]. Thank you!

For me:

Now it’s your turn!  ~ Susan

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  1. Alana on 16.05.2013 at 09:43 (Reply)

    What a wonderful post and reminder! This is something I try to do as often as I can. Sometimes though, I struggle to break out of my introverted shell.

  2. Roopak on 16.05.2013 at 09:54 (Reply)

    I am totally with you and miracle happen!!

  3. zendotstudio (Carole) on 16.05.2013 at 10:30 (Reply)

    I learned this little trick years ago when I used to take a Zen monk on errands. Watching people blossom from her care and interest was a real eye opener. I don’t do it all the time, but the gift of this generosity of spirit is both participants feel good. It’s like tossing flowers out into the open air.

  4. Rich Day on 16.05.2013 at 11:06 (Reply)

    Probably the best thing I have read all year. And so much to say about this, but I’ll restrain myself, and simply say, this is it! Thank you for posting this, I love it!

  5. Rich Day on 16.05.2013 at 11:21 (Reply)

    OK, I really can’t restrain myself, this is too good.

    Copernicus saw the sun as the center of the universe. It is somewhat natural as we grow up to see ourselves as the center. After all, from the moment we open our eyes we see everything revolve around us. I believe this is our nature, but not our destiny. We see the grocer, the barber, our co-workers by their function in orbit around our needs.
    By using the grocer’s name..Maggie, we open the door to the most incredible reality. Each person is the center! It is so simple, but so wonderful! Maggie isn’t my grocer, she is another I! Martin Buber said of each soul, “The entire universe is lit by their gaze”. To see each person as another I will change our lives forever. This is why Beauty and the Beast is also my favorite Disney movie, I love it!

    1. Jennifer on 16.05.2013 at 18:35 (Reply)

      Rich — I love your enthusiasm! I’m glad you couldn’t restrain yourself ;) Thank you for sharing!

      I see you! ;)

      1. Rich Day on 17.05.2013 at 14:35 (Reply)

        Nice of you to say, Jennifer. Thank you. It is a beautiful, wonderful Friday. Have a great day!

        1. Patrica on 17.05.2013 at 18:24 (Reply)

          Rich: That was wonderful, thank you. It has been years since I read Buber’s “I and Thou,” and your quote ran chills up my spine because it was so beautiful. I’ve had that book in my library for years, I think it’s time to read it again. Thank you.

          1. Rich Day on 17.05.2013 at 23:06 (Reply)

            Patrica, I and Thou is one of my favorite books. I’m sure I didn’t remember his exact words, it is Buber passed through my memory. Nice to meet someone else who loves this book. I think it is time that I read it again too!

  6. Michael Lipson on 16.05.2013 at 11:23 (Reply)

    Definitely makes a huge difference!
    “If you put out sunshine to people, sunshine will come back from them.”-Les Giblin

  7. Erica on 16.05.2013 at 12:43 (Reply)

    I think it’s a great idea to treat the people around us as real humans, and I absolutely agree that we should take a moment to have an interaction with those we might typically ignore. However, I’m not sure that using someone’s name is the best way to do that. I worked for years in various kinds of service industries (restaurant server, retail clerk, etc.), and I used to hate it when people would call me by name. Here’s why: it was never my choice to wear a name tag, and it always felt strangely too personal and invasive when someone would call me by name. Now, if they took a moment to smile and say, “Hello, how are you today?,” I was always happy to engage with them. This kind of interaction allowed me to share as much or as little as I wanted-ranging from “fine, thanks,” to “wonderful! It’s my birthday, and I get off work in half an hour-I can’t wait for my party tonight.” But when someone would use my name, I always felt a little taken off guard; after all, I don’t know *their* name, so the interaction starts off on unequal footing (besides, you’re already in an unequal relationship with the person providing a service, so this just emphasizes the relative privilege of the customer).

    This is not to say, of course, that some service employees don’t love it when customers use their names! I’m certainly not trying to speak for everyone. But I also know I’m not the only one who feels a little too exposed when strangers know and use my name. So, I totally love the spirit of this experiment, but I might also suggest that there are other ways of “seeing” those around us.

    1. Jeff on 17.05.2013 at 06:23 (Reply)

      I agree 100%. I worked in retail for nearly a decade and while I enjoyed being acknowledged as a person, it always bothered me quite a bit when strangers called me by name.

    2. kiwimusume on 17.05.2013 at 07:48 (Reply)

      “I used to hate it when people would call me by name. Here’s why: it was never my choice to wear a name tag, and it always felt strangely too personal and invasive when someone would call me by name. Now, if they took a moment to smile and say, “Hello, how are you today?,” I was always happy to engage with them. This kind of interaction allowed me to share as much or as little as I wanted–ranging from “fine, thanks,” to “wonderful! It’s my birthday, and I get off work in half an hour–I can’t wait for my party tonight.””

      This is EXACTLY how I felt! I thought I must be the only one, even for an introvert. When I’m a customer, I do things like smile, compliment, wish them a good day, ask them about themselves (for long stuff like at the beautician) to varying degrees depending on how full my social energy banks are, but I don’t use their name because it’s just so personal.

    3. Sarah Jeanne Lombardo on 17.05.2013 at 09:23 (Reply)

      I agree with this. Unfortunately, a customer referring to me by my name never felt appreciative—it felt like a power play.

      I do very much like the idea of a customer offering their name before referring to a worker by the workers name. I am a little concerned of it coming off as flirtatious-another unfortunate aspect of customer service is that our compulsory smiles are often read as sexual interest.

    4. V A on 17.05.2013 at 09:38 (Reply)

      I agree that using names is a rather aggressive approach. Nametags can be really oppressive - (former female waitress here - male customers being too familiar in the restaurant gets sort of creepy.) We’re introverts here - would you want someone getting all up in your personal space? In addition, I find it disquieting when I am experiencing my own personal emotions and someone tries to make me smile or take away whatever my feelings are. We should learn to accept and engage on some sort of equal plain with someone who is not mirroring our own expectations of feelings. An authentic engagement with a person is what we can cultivate - not something that we imagine is what that person needs. Also, being a cashier/waitress/retail can really be unpleasant - we’re not there to give them lessons in zen though we can offer gratitude.

    5. Terri on 17.05.2013 at 14:03 (Reply)

      One of the cashiers at the grocery store I shop at uses my name when handing me my receipt. She obviously sees it on my credit card. It does take you back for a second, like, do I know you? But in a place you frequent often, I think it’s a great idea. One cashier at the same store knows me from when our boys played ball together, now she often asks for my id, like she’s in robot mode. I’ll be using her name next time to see if it changes that.

    6. Christy on 17.05.2013 at 17:57 (Reply)

      I was trying to think of a way to say very much the same thing that didn’t make me sound like a Grinch. When I go to the grocery store, even if I’m caught up in my own mind and feeling absent from the interaction, I always try to smile and respond with honest politeness to the cashier, because I want that person to feel like they’re not just a money-dispensing machine to me. But I don’t want to know their name, and I don’t want them to know mine, and I don’t want to form a bond of eternal friendship in the grocery line.

    7. Clara on 17.05.2013 at 21:59 (Reply)

      Yes, thank you for your response…I love this idea that the author is writing about, but be wary of using names. I came to resent having to wear a nametag (as would all of my other co-workers) at work and I agree, it DOES feel like a power play when a stranger uses your name in a familiar way. I would immediately feel caught off guard and wary of what they were trying to accomplish by using my name. I never understood the reason behind needing to wear a nametag anyway and eventually, this became a sticking point for me when looking for a new job.

    8. Travis on 18.05.2013 at 01:31 (Reply)

      Yes, this. My reaction on reading the OP was “noooooooooooo”. Strangers calling me by name creeps me out. I don’t know you. You don’t know me. Please do not use my name just because my nametag or the register screen says it.

      I don’t mind when regular customers use my name, but to just have a random stranger use it does not brighten my day. It makes me feel weird. What I want from customers is to not treat me like shit. You can do that without using my name.

    9. Stefan on 21.05.2013 at 06:26 (Reply)

      I am glad to hear that others feel that way as well. To me, it’s also a form of aggression to use the nametag. I only call someone by their nametag to pressure them, when I was really dissatisfied with their service (it’s still better for both of us than calling for the manager - which I never do). Which happens maybe once every five years, as I rarely get angry with bad service. I am a “Quietly leave and never come back” person.

      Fun fact:
      In 2010, German railway (“Deutsche Bahn”) inroduced mandatory nametags for all their employees in customer contact. After a short uproar as a potential violation of privacy for employees, they allow now for fake names on those tags. Reasons: So customers can not bully or stalk employees beyond the workplace (especially people with rare last names…”Hey, Mr. Schwarzschaufel, I can find out where you live”).

      Which is IMO a good solution: The employee is protected, but the company can still backtrack people by their “official” alias name. Most employees do use their real name, but they are given a choice.

      I wonder if more companies operate with fake nametags.

      1. red dog on 05.06.2013 at 22:22 (Reply)

        “I am glad to hear that others feel that way as well. To me, it’s also a form of aggression to use the nametag.”

        Yes, calling someone by their name is what most mothers do to their children when they want them to obey. Hearing one’s name called becomes a habit, or a conditioned response. Then anyone who has THAT psychological KEY can control a person as well, if they are not fully acting as an adult. It is a form of aggression, or actually dominance, and it is based upon emotional manipulation that is instilled as a social and cultural means of control of children at a young age.

        “I only call someone by their nametag to pressure them, when I was really dissatisfied with their service (it’s still better for both of us than calling for the manager – which I never do).”

        It might be “easier for both” of you, but you are now pressuring the employee yourself, rather than calling the manager. You have now taken on the role of manipulator. You are now the aggressor. It’s the age-old, authoritarian pecking order.

        “Which happens maybe once every five years, as I rarely get angry with bad service. I am a “Quietly leave and never come back” person”.”

        That accomplishes nothing. It’s a “cop out”. You don’t know how to question the authority that is dominating the subordinate employee - or you don’t risk doing so.

        “Fun fact:
        In 2010, German railway (“Deutsche Bahn”) inroduced mandatory nametags for all their employees in customer contact. After a short uproar as a potential violation of privacy for employees, they allow now for fake names on those tags. Reasons: So customers can not bully or stalk employees beyond the workplace (especially people with rare last names…”Hey, Mr. Schwarzschaufel, I can find out where you live”).

        Which is IMO a good solution: The employee is protected, but the company can still backtrack people by their “official” alias name. Most employees do use their real name, but they are given a choice.

        I wonder if more companies operate with fake nametags.”

        I assume your citation is factual, but it isn’t funny. But, yes, they do. This is nothing new and is universally practiced worldwide now. Unfortunately, often in telephone transactions the service agent gives only their forename, but they collect your full name and all your personal information. Then, after the company you called screws up (or is unresponsive to your needs), and you call again, they ask whom you spoke with. “I spoke with “Suzy”. “Oh, which one? there are several here.” “She wouldn’t give me her last name. You already know MY FULL NAME. What’s yours?”

        “I’m Jeff. I can’t tell you my last name.”

        Days later, in another follow up call: “We have nothing in your records about your call. Who did you speak with?” “I spoke with “Suzy” and with “Jeff”. “Which Jeff did you speak with?” “He wouldn’t give me his last name.” “Sorry, we can’t help you. Now tell us YOUR full name and all your information (again).”

        “I SEE YOU” is a form of DOMINANCE (AND INTIMIDATION).


        Is it effective? You already sense and know that it is.

        Neither is necessary to conduct business with subordinates or mundane clerical transactions. You don’t need to know your waiter’s name, nor does he need to know yours. It all too often becomes a manipulative ploy to dominate others.

        Just remember this: there is an antidote to such forms of psychological manipulation, and it is called ASSERTIVENESS.

    10. Kathie on 12.06.2013 at 05:56 (Reply)

      I completely agree with you and felt the same way when I read this. I’m just glad I wasn’t the only one to think it!

  8. Suzy on 16.05.2013 at 12:43 (Reply)

    I am an introvert that was raised by extroverts, so I learned a few things from my extrovert family. One was to try to acknowledge people, especially those who help you.

    When I worked at a hardware store checkout (shudder), I would make a small joke or smile at the people who came through my line. One of my coworkers commented that she wished she had my ease in dealing with people. She didn’t realize that the smile and ease also kept people at a distance but made them feel good. It was a structured environment. Smiling was easy, then I wouldn’t have people in my face with anger at something I couldn’t control. (many people like to kill the messenger or whoever is in front of them.)

    I made it through that job. It was part-time and it paid some bills. I could go home at night and be by myself. That was good.

    My short interactions with store clerks, customer support people (especially via the phone), and others who deal with people on a regular basis, are survivable. I say, “Hi! Hope your day goes well.” and I can leave. They cannot. If my 30 second exchange with them lightens the load, I’ll do it. If their boss is nearby, I’ll compliment them so that their good work is acknowledged. It takes little time and is worth much more.

    Yes, I’m a true introvert, but I also know that the world isn’t just about me and my needs. I have coping skills. I can close the door when I need to be alone. I can disappear into a book when I need some downtime. For my survival, I just pay attention to the balance of my introvert needs and adapt as necessary.

    and I’ll still talk with my waiter/waitress, or the person who makes my mocha. When I smile at others, it lifts my mood. It is hard to stay sad when you are smiling at someone.

    1. Christy on 17.05.2013 at 18:02 (Reply)

      I totally agree with the smiling, the general friendliness, the not transferring your own bad day or attitude onto someone. My very first job at age 14 was at Subway, and the only advice my mother gave me about working there was, “Smile and greet people.” I still remember it when I go into any place of business and the people working scarcely acknowledge your existence.
      But on the other hand, I hate being joked with by a cashier or waitress or bank teller. It makes me feel terribly awkward and like I have to respond in a certain way that isn’t natural to me or doesn’t suit my mood or whatever. Politeness is a recognition that the other person is a valuable human and deserves to be treated well. Joking…is subjective and should be reserved for personal relationships.

  9. David on 16.05.2013 at 13:29 (Reply)

    Yes, that acknowledgement or genuine appreciation does make a difference. I handle warranty claims for a lawn & garden company. Not always, but sometimes people do reciprocate kindness and it does help you get through the day at a job that’s just a means to an end. It doesn’t even have to be someone saying my name, but I can tell in their tone of voice that they really are appreciative that I did what I could to help them.

    Besides, it’s nice to know that at least some people still appreciate kindness; Suzy’s right that a lot of people do like to kill the messenger. I try not to take it personally. It’s hard some days to shrug that off, but small acts of kindness do help.

  10. Renee Metty on 16.05.2013 at 15:30 (Reply)

    Thank you for this. I recently did a similar experiment last month where I asked the person at the check out line how they were doing. It started out as me thinking to myself…I don’t do this. So, I looked her in the eye and said “Hi, how is your day going?” The response was astounding. She was generally surprised and appreciative that I even asked. So I did it again…and again. I only did it those 3 times so thank you for the reminder to keep doing it. I plan to make it part of my being!

  11. Yvonne Hart on 16.05.2013 at 19:13 (Reply)

    I have found this to be the single most exciting thing I have gained from overcoming my introversion. When I make someone else feel appreciated by using their name or asking a question,I am usually rewarded-sometimes with excellent service. It only takes a moment more to find out their name.

  12. Holly on 16.05.2013 at 20:20 (Reply)

    This reminded me of Amanda Palmer’s Ted Talk: — in it she discusses how seeing others can be a gift.

  13. Mary on 17.05.2013 at 06:47 (Reply)

    I’m a little more social than most introverts and I usually chat a little with the checkout folks - IF - they carry most of the conversation. Anyway - I started doing this a few weeks ago. Many times it is a shock to their system when someone acknowledges them. One young girl asked me how I knew her name! ;-) I will also talk to fussy children of frazzled mommies. It’s amazing how that often defuses a very tense situation. A kind word or few does a world of good - if you can muster the courage to reach out!

    1. Rich Day on 17.05.2013 at 15:00 (Reply)

      There is probably no one on the face of the earth less like Amanda than I am, but I loved her TED talk. And yes, she does indeed see people. You are right, this is like her.

  14. Ryan on 17.05.2013 at 06:59 (Reply)

    Just being acknowledged and/or appreciated is an excellent experience, the challenge is in reading and trying to understand how different people like to be acknowledged and appreciated, is it in the name or a real genuine thank you.

    I think having a genuine interest in cheering up a stranger is a great idea.

  15. Diana on 17.05.2013 at 07:13 (Reply)

    I would just like to mention that as an introvert, when I had no choice but to take a cashier job -I absolutely dreaded having people trying to get personal and make chitchat with me. It felt subtly demeaning to have total strangers call me by my first name. Go figure. I was pleasant enough, and efficient at the job itself, but as if the uniform and the nametag were not cringe-worthy enough to begin with - this kind of forced interaction felt like being called out and put on the spot, and was drawing unwanted attention. It made me uncomfortable and self-conscious. It introduced a new concern that I’d be perceived as “not friendly enough” or something. I just wanted to do get though the shift without incident and go home.

  16. Elizabeth Lagershausen on 17.05.2013 at 07:50 (Reply)

    This article is about good manners. That’s all, good manners. That’s the social experiment I guess. Use alertness, sensitivity, and proper manners for the occasion: people typically respond well. Really, no offense to the author or those of you who feel this “idea” is anything new, but it’s really just basic 101, primer stuff. Kind of sad in a way.

  17. Renee on 17.05.2013 at 07:53 (Reply)

    I do this all the time with waitstaff and cashiers. I learned it from my dad, who is a social butterfly. I always thought he was kind of forward or weird, but as I watched, I saw that it worked out well for him!

  18. Liz Ward on 17.05.2013 at 08:01 (Reply)

    Every once in a while, when I’m in a checkout line or in a restaurant, I think about how I’d like someone to treat my daughter/mother/father, and that immediately jolts me from treating them like their job function to treating them as people to be cared about.

  19. Becky on 17.05.2013 at 08:03 (Reply)

    I do this all the time, because I once worked as a cashier and sometimes it feels like an invisible job. I don’t use the person’s name either, though, just a friendly smile and eye contact because I feel that I don’t know the person well enough to use their first name. I never liked wearing a name tag when I was required to do so. I’m one of those people who would feel strange if someone used my first name not knowing me at all, too. I don’t think omitting their name makes the experience any less valuable, just a little less strange. A simple smile and a thank you is appreciated by almost everyone.

  20. Tamara on 17.05.2013 at 08:10 (Reply)

    I am horrible at remembering people’s names so I did the same exercise in an effort to practice remembering names, but I quickly discovered that the faces of many cashiers would completely change and soften once I addressed them by name. It works at the deli counter too. I enjoy it. However, Erica makes a good and interesting point. Maybe the exercise works in my situation because I always shop at the same store and the employees and I already know each other by sight if not by name. Learning their name seems almost overdue.

  21. Alen Mayer on 17.05.2013 at 08:20 (Reply)

    What you are describing in your post it is a normal thing north of the border. Canadians are very polite to each other and they all speak with respect to each other, including grocery store clerks.

    More politeness goes long way. Visit Canada if you have a chance and you will be surprised that people are nice to each other even in the big city like Toronto (over 5 mil. population).

  22. Lois on 17.05.2013 at 08:28 (Reply)

    ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Goes a long way as Jesus’ example to us demonstrates. I do this all the time as I used to be one of those introverted check out people and I can truly empathize with them in their discomfort. I try to remember, though, that this love I desire to express to others is for THEM. NOT for me.

  23. Dana Paxson on 17.05.2013 at 08:30 (Reply)

    I have my own variation on this which I apply at restaurants. Whenever a server comes to my table, and that person’s name appears (tag or self-intro), I introduce myself to the server and then go around the table offering the names of those with whom I am sharing a meal. The light that appears in the server’s eyes, and the frequent warm responses, tell me that this is a really nice thing to do. I follow it up with a good tip, which by the end of the meal has usually been more than well-earned.

    Life is hard. Acknowledging that in any way possible to a fellow human soul seems only fitting, because we are all companions on the same uneven road of time.

    1. Rich Day on 17.05.2013 at 15:02 (Reply)

      Dana, love your comment. I’m going to try this.

    2. Christy on 17.05.2013 at 18:09 (Reply)

      I’m wondering if you ask the people sitting at the table with you whether they want to be introduced. I don’t even like being introduced to my mother’s friends and clients (I work with her), let alone to every person I might interact with day-to-day. If I were going out to eat with my mother and she introduced me to the server, a stranger to herself as well as to me, I would feel very awkward. My life would not be materially improved in any way by being introduced to a stranger I will interact with twice over the next hour and never see again. As the server, I would feel exactly the same way.

  24. Diane on 17.05.2013 at 09:03 (Reply)

    I mean no disrespect here, but I’m kind of turned off by this idea, personally. In particular because, as a female, this is exactly the sort of “tool” that men often use, to try to manufacture a sense of instant “intimacy” with us. It can be intrusive and creepy. Even scary, sometimes (threatening… “stalkerish”). I have often responded with that “shy and embarrassed smile” that was mentioned in the above story - but because I felt awkward and creeped out, and like the person was being inappropriate and too personal, but I didn’t want to cause a scene by exposing my true reaction or being direct with them (hence the “kind of smiling” and trying to shrug it off and carry-on response).

    Anyways, I don’t mean to be a negative Nelly, and shoot down someone’s obviously very well-intentioned idea. At the same time, I think it’s important to at least consider that, especially in larger towns and urban areas, where those of us in contact with the public come into contact with so many people from all over over (not just people we know and can vouch because they live in our own neighborhood) boundaries can be a very good thing to respect. And that boundaries themselves are a legit way of respecting and acknowledging a human being. I think we can still be festive, kind, and acknowledge a person’s existence and humanity without becoming too personal(and before being directly invited by that person to do so). Just food for thought.

    1. Christy on 17.05.2013 at 18:10 (Reply)

      Thank you, thank you, yes. One can be friendly and polite without transgressing the accustomed boundaries of shopper-cashier interactions.

      1. red dog on 05.06.2013 at 23:05 (Reply)

        Exactly. The boundaries have been blurred, (often deliberately by expectations of retail management) and we no longer understand the difference between business and personal relationships. One need not be personal to be polite. We can be mutually respectful of each other without scripted or ritualistic chit-chat at the check out line.

  25. Diane on 17.05.2013 at 09:16 (Reply)

    I just noticed that Erica (above) made a comment about interactions being on an “equal footing”. That REALLY resonated with me!

    A customer using my name (when I have not introduced myself and have had no other contact with the customer aka: total stranger) can make me feel unequally “exposed”. It can feel a little like when you’re meeting a doctor for the first time, and you’re naked with only a little paper cover-up sheet, while they are fully clothed in multiple layers; shirt and tie, shoes and even a white coat.

    If a customer extends their hand first and says “Hi, I’m Sally”, at least declaring their own name first - it can feel like a more “equal footing” and respectful situation.

  26. Mary Friedel-Hunt MA LCSW on 17.05.2013 at 09:20 (Reply)

    Susan, I have been doing this for years. I do not know if people’s days improved but it seems to me to be something that is either forgotten in our fast society or that people fear verbalizing. Expressing appreciation and acknowledging pain or fatigue in others starting at home and moving outward is just such a basic act that gets so neglected. I will be following to see what folks say about this.

    I also have your book, read it and now our book club has selected it for our next round of books.

    Keep up the good work…it is important work in our society so focused on “being out there”.

  27. jj on 17.05.2013 at 09:42 (Reply)

    Yesterday I went to a new allergist’s office. The women at the front desk was extremely pleasant from the second I interacted with her, I thought wow that’s a surprise. And then every single interaction with everyone in this office was just as nice. Then when I met the Dr I knew why, he was the same way and probably made an effort to hire the same kinds of people. It was such a surprise because where I live, Washington DC this just is not common. I actually pay a fee to go to a special MD practice just so the people are easy and pleasant to deal with. I’m from the west coast and it was so hard to get use to people in any kind of customer service acknowledging I was alive. I don’t want special attention, I just want to know if you know I’m standing here, waiting here, etc. Once I know that I have no problem waiting. Anyway this was such a change of pace so I made a decision half through the visit that I would make sure to compliment the front desk person on my way out. I being an introvert myself sometimes find this hard complimenting people. I always want to say things they just might not come out. But when I left I simply said “oh and I also wanted to thank you for being so pleasant to work with, it was really refreshing” she got the biggest kick out of it and a huge loud laugh that made my day. And the good feeling stayed with me throughout because later I bought a homeless man a water (it was 80 degrees out yesterday) It’s just the little things but it makes them feel noticed and for me it’s a selfish little pleasure to feel good about doing something nice.

  28. M. on 17.05.2013 at 09:46 (Reply)

    +10,000 to what others have said about “equal footing.” I worked retail jobs for years, and I hated it when customers called me by name. I don’t want someone calling me by my first name when all I can call them is “sir” or “ma’am.” I know this poster meant well, but if you want to reach out to someone working retail, smile and be friendly in other ways.

  29. JD on 17.05.2013 at 09:52 (Reply)

    I have done similar when out walking. I will smile and say good morning or good evening to someone I am passing and perhaps make a comment on the weather. I find that even the most dour looking people will smile if even a little. I have had some people look at me in amazement and grin broadly at he fact that someone would actually speak to them. Nice feeling.

  30. Monica on 17.05.2013 at 10:31 (Reply)

    This is something I’ve done for years, with every person I meet, just because a gentle “pat on the arm”, spiritually speaking, is what I feel I can give. However, when you get a patron and a clerk who are both introverts, both going through a tough life transition, and who have gone through this kind of exchange with each other for many years, but still don’t really know each other, the excrement can really hit the fan when a mutual “bad day” collides. There exists, via years of “seeing” each other, a presumption of knowing each other that is just based on humanitarian kindness and being fully present with them — not actually knowing them much at all. This does not always lead to good results — either or both party can end up feeling truly hurt, and ironically, totally misunderstood and not correctly “seen” at all, when moods don’t match —and communication, which would improve understanding, can’t be fleshed out, because the relationship does not have an appropriate way for that to happen. So, yes, give that kind smile and direct look in the eye to whomever you encounter, if you interact. But if you are to interact in a very limited way, weekly, for years and years, be careful. There will eventually evolve a feeling of familiarity from this, and it might be misleading. I’m just sayin’: You don’t really know someone till you actually are in each other’s lives and not just shared interactions at a cash-stand. No body wants to be hurt or get hurt, yet the nicest, most caring people on earth can come to blows when the inner self seems to have been “seen” incorrectly.

  31. Jim on 17.05.2013 at 11:06 (Reply)

    I used to go out of my way to use employees’ names. Then my daughter, who works in retail, said she thought it was creepy when strangers called her by name. I still try to be friendly but no longer address employees by name.

  32. Deb on 17.05.2013 at 19:12 (Reply)

    I have an ex who would call everyone by their name. She would ask for the servers or cashiers name if it was not a name tag. She said it was to be gracious. But really it was a power play. She was the one with the power. She was not doing this for the other person but for herself. It was very apparent by her mannerisms and tone of voice. This was very noticeable when the person she was focusing her attention on wanted to get away and do their job. Many many times I saw how the person interacting with her was not comfortable with their name being used on such a personal level. Rather than being friendly and grateful, she appeared to be condescending or worse. I talk with cashiers and servers etc. Most of all I thank them because I know it is a difficult job and I appreciate the assistance. We are all equals. If I can smile and say thank you, then I hope it makes your day easier. If you are not in the mood to interact with me, I will respect that too.

    1. kiwimusume on 17.05.2013 at 20:26 (Reply)

      Yeah, while a lot of the customers who used my name clearly meant well, I’d get some who’d say it in a cocky way that made it clear that they saw it as this magic trick to make the little people eat out of their hand. Patronising customers like that were my number two hate after the customers who were outright rude.

  33. HECTOR OROZCO on 17.05.2013 at 19:57 (Reply)

    That so nice because we can make the difference in a difficult day for someone and help them with those friendly words and good thought.

  34. Chris on 17.05.2013 at 20:57 (Reply)

    I did this last week. I felt that the sales person helping me just did a great job. I asked her name, shook her hand and thanked her. I felt good too.

  35. The ‘I SEE YOU’ Experiment … | Life with Tess on 18.05.2013 at 03:20

    [...] I could tell a shy and embarrassed smile crossed her face as she turned to the next customer. Yet, that smile was there because I “saw” her, called her by name and acknowledged her personally.” [...]

  36. charlize gonzales on 18.05.2013 at 04:13 (Reply)

    Introverts are generally hard to get by eye contact. There are introverts who are comfortable in their introversion hence, anybody’s effort of unsolicited connection would be viewed as an intrusion into their privacy. However, their are those who are trying to find the right person to connect. The so-called “right person” is usually determined by feeling or self-vibration

    Certainly, the introverts feel the same feelings of appreciation and of being appreciated sometimes although, they are most comfortable of things happening at their own pace. Not necessarily because they “must” or “must not” / “should” or “should not”.

    I have been described by people who barely know me as the “weird”, the “ignored”, the “misunderstood” and someone with “problem in attitude” simply because i can listen to long conversations without saying anything or i don’t pretend to listen when i don’t feel like listening at all. Yet i can have long conversations of intermittent hearty laughter with very few close friends.

    I guess, introversion is merely one of the conditions arising out of the realities we created by the choices that we made in the lives that we lived. Perhaps, creating a life of introversion was the necessary reason of the soul seeking another crossover to the physical realm.

    This is my strongest proof that Life is Fair and God is Just.

  37. doug clarke on 18.05.2013 at 05:48 (Reply)

    most shop assistants and other people in jobs dealing with the public seem to wear their name tags these days
    they always seem to be happy to be thanked and addressed by name.
    some times it is an effort when subject does not present pleasantly but still worth it.
    Your book is a special for me.

    the man alone

  38. Rich Day on 18.05.2013 at 10:09 (Reply)

    So many of these thoughts above speak of a concern about the approach of using someone’s name being too agressive and violating their space, by assuming a level of intimacy that isn’t in the exchange. I think this is true. Yet the phrase Katherine uses throughout…”I see YOU”….people need to be seen, they hunger to be reached. Even those that are shy and introverted want connection. But connection cannot be forced, it must be achieved one step at a time, as trust is earned, not given. After reading all of these comments, I feel I gain much from this conversation. It is so valuable to reach out to someone, but it can’t be done mechanically. It is an art. It is like a dance where to be done well, you must first feel the movements of your partner. My takeaway from this will be to pursue an art called “I see you”.

  39. barry on 18.05.2013 at 22:55 (Reply)

    I do that all the time, and have for a long time just common manners to me

  40. terry grant on 19.05.2013 at 14:58 (Reply)

    Several years ago I was being waited on in a clothing store by a young woman wearing a badge that read “trainee.” Her supervisor was standing over her shoulder instructing her on using the cash register and becoming increasingly impatient with her as she fumbled through the transaction. She looked like she was about to cry as she shyly mumbled, “sorry this is taking so long…” I looked her in the eye, smiled and said, “No problem. I’m not in a hurry and I know it is important for you to learn this.” Then I added a comment about what beautiful hair she had. She smiled shyly and I could see the tension drain out of her shoulders. I was surprised by how much it seemed to please her and vowed to always try to make a small connection with service people, especially those in positions of lesser power than those around them.

    1. Rich Day on 19.05.2013 at 16:15 (Reply)

      Terry, there is no “like” button to push on these comments, but I really enjoyed learning of your story. What a masterpiece a perceiving, thinking human soul is and what a contrast it is when compared to such a mere trifle as a moment of learning at the register that takes a few more moments. Your story made me smile, thank you!

  41. Sarah on 20.05.2013 at 08:17 (Reply)

    I dislike the “I see you” part of this. It’s misleading and so presumptuous. And also sounds a little bit creepy, to me!

    First of all, we’re already “seen” everywhere these days. There is very little privacy out in public. Because of security cameras, people with their phones and cameras capturing images everywhere.

    Being “seen” all the time is sometimes annoying, and even distressing.

    Being ACKNOWLEDGED (and respected), as a human being, is what matters.

    When we interact with strangers, we can acknowledge them and respect them. This requires a heck of a lot more than just “seeing” them. Again, we’re “seen” all the time - too often. Whatever.

    I also react negatively to the phrase “I see you” because of how presumptuous it sounds. If I’m your checkout person ringing you up, what you are “seeing” is my smiling and gregarious social and work PERSONA. You’re not really seeing ME, because I haven’t shown you ME.

    Don’t presume that you are seeing ME. And please don’t presume that you are seeing other of your service staffs REAL selves, when you’re out shopping, running your errands, having your hair done, or out dining. We are serving you, and playing ROLE - for you - as part of our jobs.

  42. Mike P on 20.05.2013 at 20:58 (Reply)

    Being an Extrovert, I do this to satisfy my own instincts…

    AND… it DOES make people brighten up…

    Here’s my dirty little secret…

    It brightens MY DAY to brighten theirs…

    …but don’t tell anybody…

  43. Dana Paxson on 21.05.2013 at 09:29 (Reply)

    What a great thread this has turned out to be! In my original post, I was fairly brief, and I may have omitted or glossed over some important parts of the way I handle these things. I was not always good at this, and I often forget how long the journey has been for me.

    First, I do not read off from a nametag or make any kind of encroachment on a server’s or clerk’s personal space. I wait to see and hear whether or not the person introduces herself or himself with a name. Then I react with a nod of acknowledgement, and introduce myself with the same level of name (usually given name), and if the people with me know me well enough to know what comes next, I introduce them the same way. There is nothing forced about it. I assume nothing, disclose first and only if prompted, and make my disclosure the reflection of what is disclosed to me.

    My principle in general to establish connection is to offer a small step of disclosure of my own. If it is reciprocated, we continue the process to a functional stage and beyond if agreeable. If it is not reciprocated, I stop right there and we conduct business.

    This isn’t rocket science, but it took me a while to learn. I started out extremely shy and geeky. Once I got sufficient assurance to go out and make mistakes and learn, it all became easier.

    My best to you all,


  44. Francesca on 21.05.2013 at 20:43 (Reply)

    This happened a couple of years ago.

    I was downtown Toronto for a meeting, keep in mind I live in extreme rural Ontario so all things “Toronto” are a bit much at the best of times. We decided to go to the Timmies across the street for our coffee break.

    I asked the security/receptionist person if he wanted anything as we were making a “Timmies run”. His face lit up and he said “yes”.

    I caught up with my colleagues who asked where I was, I told them I was getting the security guard’s order…”there’s a security guard” was their response. I was very disappointed as we all worked for a charity that focused on poverty issues, and “seeing” people should be important.

    Since then I’ve made a point of “seeing” everyone, hotel staff, all service people, all the people that are suppose to be a part of the background of life. I do this so much, that when a friend took me to Toronto for a Christmas treat, he specifically told me I couldn’t make eye contact and acknowledge the street folk, as I couldn’t help them all, and he knows me.

    I’ve since read the book, at his recommendation, as he’s the introvert of the friendship, and while I like my quiet, and I live alone, I tend to raise to the audience. So not sure now if he just didn’t want to get dragged into saving the world with me.

    1. Rich Day on 21.05.2013 at 21:41 (Reply)

      Francesca, Love your story about getting coffee for the security guard. There is, I believe a very interesting future for those who will walk down the serendipitous road of seeing and responding. Thanks for your story!

  45. Jane B. on 31.05.2013 at 13:56 (Reply)

    I JUST did this yesterday! Before I even read this post today. I happened to notice “Maggie’s” name tag because it was hand designed, so on a whim as I was picking up my grocery bags, I said, “Thank you, Maggie. Have a great afternoon.” She, too, got that little smile and sort of shook her head like, wow, someone *saw* me just now. It felt really, really cool. I tend to be a chatty cathy when it comes to check out folks, waitstaff, librarians, and I often start my interactions with them with, “So, how are you doing today?” It makes the experience a better experience for me — AND more personal for them.

  46. red dog on 05.06.2013 at 22:51 (Reply)

    Most of this is retailing strategy: it’s social lubrication of the customer to generate sales.

    I grew up in and remember a world, decades ago, in which business was conducted politely, but *impersonally*. There was a difference between composing a business letter and a personal letter. What is appropriate to a business relationship is *not* appropriate to a personal relationship. Nowadays, it’s ALL retail salesmanship, and it’s all made personal by imposition, societally and culturally.

    I hate going to the post office. Why? Because customers who want someone to talk to routinely use the window clerks as crying towels and surrogate therapists. One day I waited many long minutes while a customer held up the line, engaged in long-winded personal chit-chat and asking the same questions repeatedly of the clerk. When I came to the window I told the clerk that such people come to the post office for more than just mailing their stuff. He just rolled his eyes. Apparently he can’t say no.

    After all, it’s your Federal Government at work. As in the McD’s slogan… “We do it ALL for you”.

    No wonder USPS is losing money…

  47. Kathie on 12.06.2013 at 06:02 (Reply)

    I have to say that I am in complete agreement with Erica and her comment regarding the use of someone’s name when you don’t know them.

    Speaking as an introvert who has worked in a variety of public service positions, it always felt odd to have a stranger use my name as though they knew me personally. I never liked having to wear name tags or share my name. I only did so because it was a job requirement, not because I was a bubbly outgoing person who loved to put my name out there to the world :-)

    All of that being said, I think the author’s heart is in the right place with this article, but I also think that just being kind, polite and even friendly is enough to “see” another person.

    1. Red Dog on 12.06.2013 at 21:09 (Reply)

      Mothers do this with (or actually ‘to’) their children at a very young age: they call the child’s name repeatedly, to elicit a child’s attention. That forms a conditioned response (or ‘habit’).

      Then, once the child is an adult, that ingrained behavioral response progresses to person being vulnerable to a power play, where anyone having the key to it can control the other person: ***If I know your name and can call you (by it) I can now CONTROL you - simply by calling you by name and repeating your name.***

      At some point this interaction crosses the line between friendliness into manipulation. This is why it is best that we understand the difference between business relationships and personal ones, and keep them separate. Blurring of these boundaries allows and promotes emotional manipulation (which unfortunately benefits those who seek to control or dominate others).

  48. Back at us, Introverts!! | Kigan Country on 17.02.2014 at 04:01

    […] photo from Susan Cain […]

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