How Do You See People?

This is a guest post by Dan Foster, a Branch Manager for Prudential Northwest Properties in the Portland Metropolitan Area. He is also a life coach, active blogger, husband, and father of two children. You can also follow him on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

I have been reading the book, Outlive Your Life, by Max Lucado. In the book Lucado asks a simple but powerful question: Do you see through people or into people? This question has been challenging me all week to examine how I interact and communicate with the people around me.

Putting on a Pair of Glasses from the Wearer’s Prospective - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #6395924

Photo courtesy of ©

As a business leader it is easy to get caught up into thinking only about my world, my struggles, and my priorities; so much so that my interaction with others can become automated and disingenuous. This book has caused me to wonder just how many opportunities I have missed to connect with others more deeply and to truly serve them.

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How do you see people? Before you answer that question, consider these five characteristics of someone that sees through people.

A person that sees through people …

  1. Sees only the consequences of people’s actions and not the pain and struggle they are going through that causes them to behave in a certain way.
  2. Sees an opportunity to ask a question but hopes they don’t have to listen to a lengthy answer that takes up too much of their time.
  3. Sees a chance to provide a solution before truly understanding the need of the person.
  4. Sees someone in need and responds with “textbook” words of encouragement and affirmation without taking the time to listen and speak into the person’s situation.
  5. Fails to see really people at all, and is oblivious to the shattered lives, broken relationships, and struggles going on all around him.

To be a leader that sees into people is no easy task. It requires courage, self-sacrifice, and the desire to engage people no matter where they are in life. When you see into people, you are not looking for what you are going to get out of that interaction, but, instead, how you can bless the person you are engaging.

This may require that you get your hands dirty. You may find yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. Your wallet may not be as fat as it was before, and you may need to create margin in your calendar for opportunities to serve.

When you see into people you acknowledge they are more than their struggles, their choices, and their behavior. They are just like you: desiring love, affection, success, encouragement, and a helping hand. Take the time to see into people and build a relationship with them and you will discover a joy and peace that redefines the way you lead your personal and professional life.

Question: How does it feel when you are led by someone like this? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Gospel lab

    If we don’t make it a habit to see into people, we will become like the cold, heartless, computers we blog on.

    We will blankly stare at people when they talk to us.

    Our speech will result in nothing more than input and output conversation.

    And our emotions will be an outward expression of our inward calculations.

  • Sarahefoster

    Great Post!!!

  • Dan Foster

    Thank you Mrs. Foster!

  • 4chauntel

    …love it Dan, thanks for the reminder ….to view others as Christ does wow!!!!

    • Dan Foster

      Thanks Chauntel! Philippians 2: 1-11.

  • Krista

    This is a great question! Really makes me think. I need to get my hands on that book! Thank you.

    • Dan Foster

      Hi Krista, Max’s book is excellent and can be found at most local Christian book stores or via Amazon. I highly recommend it.

  • Marni Arnold

    How does it feel when I am lead by someone who sees into me, rather than through me?

    I feel valued. I feel understood. I feel embraced and loved. I feel like someone cares enough to invest their time into others for others – and through this investment, they also reap great benefits themselves. They are not judgmental, but offer grace where the world is lacking thereof.

    These kind of people inspire me to always become better at seeing into people, rather than through them.

    • Dan Foster

      Marni, I think your comment reflects a lot of people’s thoughts as well. When leaders use this sort of leadership style they reap tremendous rewards from their followers, including loyalty, higher production, and a desire to see the leader’s vision become a reality.

  • Steve G.

    Great Read Dan –

    Some excellent points for leaders (and really anybody) to consider. I call it – EMPATHY. The ability to put yourself in someone else shoes! I luv how you state – Seeing Through People or Seeing Into People! (Cool Way To Describe The Attitude) I believe that people (mainly leaders) see it as a weakness when they have to actually stop and consider someone’s feelings, life, situation…I call it BEING HUMAN. True Leaders want to build people and communities up, and one of the first steps is getting a better understanding of who that person is and what makes them tick. It might take a little long, and mean more effort, but in the long run, the success will last longer! I see this behavior of “seeing through people” in sales organizations all the time.

    Excellent Work – Thank you for your insight and your ability to put it into words!

    Be Good


    • Dan Foster

      Thanks Steve. I’m glad you liked it. Now let’s all live it.

  • Mary

    This is a great post Dan – it truly makes you consider relationships and how to make them better. It is a bit sobering to think of how many times you have rushed through a conversation without really listening because you were moving ahead with your own thoughts on how you are going to comment as soon as you have a chance to speak … again. Seeing into people helps you to understand and honor the person you are engaging with. Can there be a better way to show that you care about someone than to listen with your ears and eyes … and your heart? I look forward to reading Outlive Your Life and to re-reading your post – thanks for the great insight!

    • Dan Foster

      Mary, you are going to enjoy Max’s book. Your thoughts echo mine with regards to improving relationships as well as our communication with the people we meet each day. Thanks for the comment.

  • Matt Beard

    I work in a retail environment (Christian bookstore) and it’s a daily struggle to make sure that when I’m serving a customer that I’m serving with the right attitude. It’s tempting when there’s another task besides assisting customers that I’m expected to accomplish during my shift to see through people and try to check them off the list as if they were a task themselves. However, when I do take the time to see into them and hear what they are saying and find a solution that will truly benefit them, it makes all the difference not only for them but for me as well. A day with a few customers I took the time to see into ends with a greater feeling of accomplishment than a day with hundreds of customers I saw through.

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  • David Santistevan

    You feel much more empowered and motivated to have a leader like this. Leaders who see through people typically lose followers more often.

  • Joshua Hood

    Seeing below the surface and behind the scenes is VITAL to effective leadership. You cannot properly evaluate behavior (effect) unless you understand the motive (cause). Great leaders understand not just the ‘what’, but the ‘why’.

    Josh Hood

  • Dan Foster

    Good for you Matt! You’ve got it figured out my friend. Thanks for the comment.

  • Dan Foster

    They do. One of my favorite quotes I learned from my friend Daniel Harkavy is, “People don’t leave companies, they leave leaders”.

  • Dan Foster

    Thanks Josh – good thoughts.

  • Neal MD

    I feel inept when I am “managed” my someone that sees through me. Whatever talent, education, and experience seems to be nullified by their desire to do what they want. I recognize that I haven’t been in ministry as long as many other leaders, but I have been ordained and am continually being refined to be my best for His work.
    I’m a part of younger generation that want to be an active part of something. I want my ideas and efforts to matter – I want to matter. I feel cheapened by being “seen through”.

    • Dan Foster

      Neal – I think you summed up very nicely what a young generation of leaders feel and desire most from the people they work with. Thanks for the comment.

  • Jeff Goins

    Wow. Great post. I love the word play and implications of “seeing through” versus “seeing into.” I confess that I’m often the former type of leader and am trying to be the latter.

    • Dan Foster

      Jeff, I often write about things that I’m working through and I too am definitely working on seeing into people instead of seeing through them. Thanks for the comment.

  • Jeff Goins

    Oh, and it feels great to be led in this way, as if I’m being valued for who I am, not just what I can do.

  • john_gallagher

    Dan, it is my hope that I can be the leader described at the end of your post. I know how it feels when led by both types and if I am paying attention, I learn from both! I will be adding Max’s book to my reading stack for 2011

    • Dan Foster

      John – Your going to enjoy Max’s book. Thanks for the comment.

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  • PoulAndreassen

    It is amazing to know that there are articles like this on web .Thanks for helping me out…

    • Dan Foster

      Poul, glad that you found the article helpful.

  • Michael

    I love this. I am amazed at how quickly I am tempted to prescribe advice to someone or to judge their actions without knowing their context.

    • Dan Foster

      Me too Michael. I need constant reminding that we must truly see into people before drawing any conclusions. Thanks for the comment.

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  • Ashley Musick

    I think a characteristic of a person that sees into people is that they are a person who desires to hear the voice of the Lord. When I’m being the kind of person that sees into people (I wish it was all of the time, but it’s a work in progress), I’m also tuning my heart to hear what God might be saying. If somebody is opening up and telling me a story or sharing their heart, if I’m not trying to see them as God sees them, I’m surely missing something important. When I tune in, listen to the Lord’s whispers, and share them, I’m offering the love of Christ in a way that produces change and hope. This is the best I can give. This is me being Christ to a hurting world. It starts with the desire to see into people, but requires an interaction with God. Deep calling unto deep.

    • Dan Foster

      Great thoughts Ashley. Thanks for sharing these. Appreciate your comment. Blessings.

  • Henrik Wist

    Luckily, I have never been led by a “see through people” leader. Maybe because of this, I am often acknowledged as a leader the way you describe it in the last paragraph. I probably had enough good examples to copy from. But your post reinforced how important it is to see into people. Sometimes, this takes some effort, especially if you are stressed with/by something else. But it is our job as leaders to set the priorities straight as the come up. And as long as we don’t forget that we are leading *people*, this shouldn’t be a hard task.

    • Dan Foster

      Thanks Henrik. I’m glad to hear that you have been blessed with great leadership in your life and business career. Appreciate the comment. Keep leading by example.

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  • KY

    I just wish that the management in my company learns this. They got each other’s back and keep things secret among themselves treating the rest of us like we’re nobody. Yet we’re the ones who get praises from our clients and they see the problem of our organization better than our own management does, which is a shame. People’s time spent at the company seems to be a waste because they have no intention of nurturing us or promoting us for OUR career growth.

    • Dan Foster

      KY – I’m sorry to hear this. From what you’ve described, it sounds unhealthy. I wish you the best in being a change agent for your existing organization or in finding a new place to work.

  • mens wallets

    It is such a important question by the Max Lucado about that how we see the people around us. Its so important to know any person. Thanks to Max Lucado.

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  • claudia

    hi my name is claudia i want to know about things like how do you see