How can I demonstrate that everyone is worthy of care and attention – dignity? In my mind there are 2 major ways, both of which are more easily stated than done. We discussed these this week with our students and their comments were especially profound.
Listening to others: We hear parents always say that they just want their children to listen to them or their spouse to do so. Listening is a skill that most of us can work on. The hardest part is really listening without thinking about how we are going to add to the conversation. One of our students said the reason people do not listen so well, is because they think their answer or what they have to say is more correct or more important than the person talking. I don’t think any of us do that on purpose, but the perception of the person speaking may be just that.
Imagine a student in class, who has been called on by the teacher, giving their answer, and other students are raising their hands, waving, making anxious noises in anticipation of correcting or making their point. Does that not make the person commenting a bit anxious to say what they started saying and to add to it, just to be sure they cover everything they think others might be thinking.
In the adult world we may not wave our hands around and make anxious noises – but we all have been interrupted, or had the other person tell us how they know how we feel as they begin their own story without asking anything about our experience. How was that for you, How did that feel, What worries you about this. They may not have noticed our emotions as we told our story – just thinking about how they are going to solve our issue or one up the story with one of their own.
Listening begins with:
- asking open-ended questions,
- continues with receptive silence, and
- followed by questions that allow the speaker to empty their cup and get to the heart of the matter.
Being fair to others: This is a tough philosophical question about what is fair? Fairness does not require that all things are equal. That may sound harsh at first, but to use a very simple example – does a 3 year old get the same size slice of pie as their mom or dad? Of course not. They get what they need and deserve. When I brought this example up to a group of 6 year old’s though I used ‘pumpkin pie’ as the example and they all thought that they should get the same size piece of pie. I was not surprised. But when I asked them if the 3 year old should get the same amount of spinach as mom or dad – the answer was a resounding NO!
Here is what I learned from that exchange. Many times our idea of fairness is based on our wants and desires (or sugar) and not on what we need or deserve. How does this tie into dignity and our relationships with others?
Every human needs to be accepted as a part of the global community. In our society we need to ask ourselves if our relationships are based on the dignity of others or on popularity? Does our role as a leader either in a family, business or organization demonstrate that we accept others as valuable and connect with them on an equal level? Are we willing to allow others to shine and do we create opportunities for others to grow and create their independence or do we avoid and push some out because they are different? Do we listen to others equally and treat them like they matter?
Our discussions have really made me stop and think about dignity and the connection it has to being respectful of all life. Helping our children to appreciate treating others like they matter will help them in all of their roles in life as they grow up.