Bonnie Ayars ponders building better relationships


The New Year is well established, resolutions are being tested and February is marching forward. I can tell I am adjusting as my checkbook reflects that I have finally written 2024.

As I write this, we are planning for numerous 4-H and university projects. As a matter of fact, it seems that we are using this time to plan for IT, attending IT and evaluating IT. For clarity, IT refers to any relationship, event, experience or role you might be involved with. IT has as many identities as there are people. IT is not limited and can deal with relationships. On occasion, I question if we are connecting to and with IT.

On a recent, dreary morning, I walked by the television and heard an interview that caused me to pause and ponder. The author of a new book, How to Know a Person by David Brooks, piqued my curiosity. It addresses the one skill critical to society: the ability to see someone else accurately and make them feel seen, valued, heard and understood. Considering the country’s environment, maybe we don’t do this very well. As we reach for a text message or email, possibly we are missing out on connecting. Admittedly it is worthwhile, but does it make us feel visible and connected to whatever IT we are consumed with?

The author sets out to help us pose key questions that are essential in conversations and genuinely reveal a person’s story. Brooks argues that the art of seeing another person is profoundly creative. He relates that people need social skills.

Whether you are dealing with parenting, educating, advising, mentoring or any relationship, you are dealing with IT! Human beings need recognition as much as food or water. It is a cruel punishment to not be seen or to feel invisible. If we would like to thrive in the area of AI, we will need to become much better at connecting with IT, which is specifically human beings.

In my years of teaching, I have managed to challenge a gifted student and motivate those who needed a nudge, but my greatest concern has been the enemy of average. This book provides insight to understand first and then to educate.

Perhaps IT has become impersonal in an age of technology. Maybe being wise people means that we possess more than information, but a compassionate understanding about life and other people.

So whatever task you are working on, dig a bit deeper in conversations by posing the questions that allow others to be truly seen and valued. I just picked up a 4-H report titled “Building Skills With…” It was meant to focus on the reach and connections of youth development. It was amazing to discover that animal projects, 75,410, far exceed any other areas. I would encourage anyone reading this to polish that simple capacity to make another person or animal feel seen and understood. IT could add to your ability to build personal skills first and then everyone else.


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