Build Influence With This Simple Tool

When someone makes you feel seen, heard and understood, you trust them and you invest in them. So how do you use this knowledge as a leader?

I learned the power of the phrase, “I see” from a book on developing classroom community by Ruth Charney just in time for my fifth year as a full time elementary school teacher. At this point, I had some decent classroom management skills and had become reasonably skilled at facilitating a classroom learning environment. Yet, I still struggled with frustration and fatigue from working too hard throughout the day to keep the learning on track.

From Charney’s book, I learned that just describing what you see holds people accountable for what they are doing without the weight of interpretation or judgment. As a teacher, I could just say out loud what I was seeing. “I see Jason facing forward and ready to learn. I see five children ready to learn. I see Ashley looking behind her.” This worked with other areas as well. “I see that you are working hard on your writing. I see how you are thinking about how to solve the problem.”

It changed everything!

For the first time I had a concrete nonjudgmental way of noticing and reacting to behaviors in the classroom. When my students knew I noticed what they were doing, they behaved as if I was watching them.

Just recently I was in a yoga class and the teacher called my name and cued me to shift my body slightly so that I was doing the position correctly. Not only did I appreciate the assistance learning the pose and doing it correctly, but I perked up knowing that the teacher saw me. In a room full of others doing the same thing, it is easy to feel invisible. By calling me by name and noticing my work, she made me feel that my presence in the room mattered. Though I wasn’t looking at her or in direct relationship with her, I felt her presence and in relationship to her.

Students don’t always feel the teacher’s presence if they are working individually, in small groups or in a workshop format. As part of a group, they can individually feel invisible to the teacher and that the little thing they do is unseen, unnoticed. This is true in other situations as well. When is the time that you thought you were unseen and unnoticed and someone acknowledging you would have made a big difference?

As I grew my leadership skills directing education programs, I developed a practice of writing to each person that I supervised on a regular basis. One sentence in one email of what I noticed happening for that staff member drew them closer into relationship with me. They knew I was seeing them and their work. In return, they valued what I had to say when I made suggestions or helped them think through a problem. It was a small thing that made a huge difference!

Who can you be acknowledging more in your life? It doesn’t have to be praise (that will be another post sometime), just acknowledgment. Just let them know that you see them, you notice them.

Here are some simple phrases you can adapt for your situation and try:

I see you.

I see what you are doing.

I see the effort you give.

I see that you try.

I see that you care.

I see that you really incorporated that feedback I gave you.

I notice you.

I notice the things you are doing.

I notice the qualities that show up in you.

I notice the contributions that you are making.

When you care enough to share what you see and notice about who someone is and what they are doing, you build trust and relationship. When people trust you, what you say carries more weight and your influence grows.

Try some of these phrases, or other ones that come to you and see what happens.

Contact me for a complimentary session to explore how you can grow your impact and influence in your settings.

A certified Positive Psychology coach, Leah works with people who want to upgrade their level of influence and impact to lead others towards a vision and a common goal. You can get in touch with her at

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