The "HSL" (pronounced hizzle) stands for hear, see and love. It is a simple premise initiated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and passed onto me through my teachers Barbara Simmons, Christa Tinari and Dr. Mark Jones. It is the idea that every living being needs to be heard, seen and loved (in that order), and when it doesn't happen "mischief" occurs. It may just be the most critical skill related to leaders' compassion, resilience and ability to create transformational change in themselves and others.
Barbara applied this in her organizational leadership, community activism, and Peace Talks Radio. Christa leads with it in her nonviolence activism and as part of her organization Peace Praxis, creating safe schools and communities. Mark evangelizes it through his various projects, Beloved Community programs, consortiums and organization, Sunyata. The knowledge and skills I carry on are from the teachings of these three.
Hear - how is your ability to truly hear and listen to yourself? We hint toward this in the self-awareness post. Which parts of yourself do you readily listen to, and which do you ignore?
When someone isn't feeling heard a typical response is to talk louder, repeat oneself, or become silent. Are there any parts of you doing this right now? Is your back aching from hunching over at your computer? Do you feel ready to cry at any moment or feel numb? Are you repeating a phrase or situation to yourself over and over? Get curious and see how you can listen to yourself more deeply.
What can you do to hear yourself better?
Next, ask yourself: How do I know when I've been completely heard?
See - that feeling when someone really "gets you." It's the experience of someone stepping into your shoes so they know what its like to be you. What happens when someone is not feeling seen? They may show off, seek attention, be shy, intimidate or practice bullying behaviors. Do you notice any of these urges or behaviors in yourself? At a time when we have less in-person social interaction due to pandemic, you may notice you feel less seen. What are your default behaviors when you need to feel seen?
Being "Seen" requires empathy (not sympathy). So, how do you have empathy for yourself? One way to start is by digging deeper into your cultural awareness and origin stories. The more you recognize the diverse identities, social roles and experiences that make up you, the easier it becomes to see a whole picture of who you are.
A simple and powerful activity to start with is to write a letter to your younger self. What would you tell your 10 year old self (or 18, or 30)? And more importantly, how would you listen to their stories or circumstances in a way that lets them know you "get them" (and by "them" I mean you)?
This can be deep and meaningful work. Getting the support of a counselor, therapist, coach or spiritual advisor can help you along your journey. They can assist you in discovering ways to:
One way to practice "seeing" yourself is by strengthening your ability to describe your emotional impact.
Finally, Love - how do you know when you feel loved? This type of love is not about feeling included or appreciated. It's not romantic love either. Rather, it's unconditional love.
When someone is not feeling unconditionally loved they are likely to draw others in (which may feel clingy), push others away, a combination of push-pull, or practice othering - treating someone as intrinsically different or less human than you. How have you noticed these show up in your life?
The antidote? Joy and learning to love without conditions. You can love someone and disagree with them. You can love someone and hold them accountable. You can love someone and have it still be hard to get along with them. You can love someone and still have boundaries. This is a type of unconditional positive regard type of love - where you can hold their life, humanity, liberation and dignity as sacred and fundamentally entwined with yours.
What conditions have you learned about loving yourself? "I'd love myself if... I'll love myself when..." Where did you learn those conditions and how can you replace them with a new narrative?
You'll be able to HSL others, the more you practice HSLing yourself. What are your love languages - how do you like to give and receive love? Turn that love on yourself and watch how it changes your ability to lead.