I see you, tell me what you truly need


Being seen is the foundation of wellbeing AND therefore the foundation of high performance.

Before 2011 I said things like ‘as long as the surgeon is skilled and competent, we don’t care about the rest’. Let me be clear I was talking about his technical, surgical skills. I was wrong in two important ways.

  1. If the surgeon sees the patient, really connects with them, they care much more about the person and are less likely to make an error.
  2. And, if the surgeon is seen by others, really cared about, they are more likely to do well. The well surgeon can fully focus on the task before them, the person before them, undistracted. This applies to all of the people around the surgeon too.

Being seen by others is the foundation of wellbeing AND therefore the foundation of high performance. When we are seen by others, we know we belong, we feel validated, noticed.

When we are seen by others we feel safer, trust grows. We FEEL that beyond our conscious thinking mind. We feel it with our whole body, our whole mind.

It’s not only surgeons this applies to. EVERY SINGLE HUMAN PERSON needs to be seen by other people. Patients, nurses, doctors, patient family members, ward clerks, every single person has a deep psychological need to be seen.

We can all do something about this today. Imagine a healthcare system founded in saying hello how are you, whilst we look in each other’s eyes and pause long enough to really hear the answer. (Yes, I know about the cultural sensitivities, stay with me …)

When we care about a person and we are well ourselves we invest in others, we spend time with them, we check in on them, we share our energy. Pause for 30 seconds now. Think of someone you love deeply, stimulate your affection or compassion circuitry and hormones, let the oxytocin flow, smile, put your hand on your heart. What happens?

How do you feel in your body now? What do you notice?

You can inject these moments into your life lots of times every day to stabilise your wellbeing, to lift your mood, to give your immune system some uplift. When you do you are more likely to smile at someone else, to connect with the people around you, to feel less harried. And then a funny thing often happens, a counterintuitive thing … you feel like you have more time!

I still want surgeons and doctors of all specialty skill to be technically skilled, clear minded, have a steady hand. AND I know that when they feel seen, cared for, valued they are much more likely to be. AND that will ripple out, it’s contagious, so their patients and the people around them will also feel seen and receive better medical care.


Imagine if a super spreader contagious intention to really see each other took over healthcare, meeting the deep-seated need of all the people working in the system. That’s my vision, that’s why I go to work every day. I see you, tell me what you need.

Oh, one more thing. When you do feel truly seen you are much more likely to be able to say what you really need. Let’s get better at that, saying what we truly need so we can be well. So we can take better care of each other.