Be a Human with a Human

I first heard this phrase when attending the ten-day intensive part of my executive coaching certification through Berkeley. “Be a human with a human.” noted one of the faculty coaches before they launched us into one of our first practicums where we coached a stranger in front of each other and received feedback. I was so nervous and was at the beginning of this journey, not feeling like I had the skills as yet to do a great job. A lot of self-doubt was creeping into my mind until I heard this phrase. Being a human with a human seemed doable to me. It was a reality that felt approachable, comfortable, and true. After all, we are just two human beings talking to each other. 

I saw the true expression of this phrase in a brilliant movie. Recently, I had the privilege to watch an early screening of Ava Duvernay’s new film, Origin, about the author Isabel Wilkerson’s journey to writing her book Caste while coping with personal loss. It is a tremendous movie, filled with heart and meaning. I highly recommend it to all. There is a scene in which Isabel Wilkerson, played by Aunjanue Elis-Taylor, has just experienced great personal loss and is in a flooded basement dealing with a plumber wearing a MAGA hat. She seems exhausted and is struggling to communicate with this plumber whom she seems to have nothing in common with. Then, she gets a look of calm on her face and tells him she lost her mother and asks him about his mother. The whole mood shifts in the scene. He tells her about his mother and decides to help her with her flooded basement where earlier he had some barriers up in his communication. Isabel Wilkerson saw the opportunity to see someone who seemed so completely different from her as a human and then communicated as a human to a human. She sought connection. 

Being a human with a human is about …

  • Seeking connection 
  • Listening for understanding
  • Showing empathy
  • Assuming good intent 
  • Knowing that everyone is doing their best at any given moment 
  • Knowing that we all have stories that have brought us to where we are 

In my practice as a coach, I try to spend a few minutes before I meet each client in a quiet moment where I just envision that individual human I am going to meet with. This allows me to give my full focus and attention to that person and to approach each session with curiosity. Next time you are with a colleague, a boss, your neighbor, your partner, or your kids try to be simply a human with another human. See how it goes!