Do You See People as People?

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Do you see people as people? Hmmm, it might seem obvious to answer — you already see people as people, right?

I’ll be bold enough to say – wrong! In fact, it’s likely that you see yourself and others as objects, machines, components or cogs in a wheel, whether you realize it or not.

Does this surprise you? Do you notice an inner objection either simmering or screaming loudly in your head?

Today’s Current, Mechanized Culture

Due to the way we’ve been socialized, we’ve created a society that mechanizes humans and humanize machines. What does this mean?

We’ve been taught to reach for external rewards to determine our inner value — grades, awards, handsome/beautiful life partners, degrees, jobs, houses, cars, boats… This external focus takes us away from our inherent value, our internal motivating needs, our emotions – our humanity – all internal.

In fact, the best parts of being human are invisible, yet our entire lives are focused on what’s visible.

Mechanize humans: our society puts us through a set of frames (through home/school) to make us more efficient, consistent, error-free and ideally, perfect. Entire industries have grown out of the desire to hide what we consider flaws — photoshop, music/video recording, makeup. If/when we’re not “perfect,” we’re considered “less than” and either judged, excluded, divorced, laid off, fired. This is a function of certain assumptions or beliefs that we’ve been taught and internalized into our subconscious minds through repetition at home, school and work.

Humanize machines: our love for technology gets us excited about artificial intelligence. While it’s certainly fascinating, making robots to seem more human is an odd goal, especially when we have plenty of humans superb at that job. The Japanese seem to take the lead in the use of robots to act as receptionists and girlfriends. It’s easier to be with machines because they do what they’re programmed to do (at least, they’re supposed to). Being with people requires social skills and even as they’re hard-wired into our brains, many have lost connection to their own ability to relate to people, so more and more, prefer machines. There’s even a movie about a man who falls in love with an operating system… so people are already fantasizing about that.


Here are a few ways you might objectify yourself and others without even realizing it – not because you’re a bad person, rather because you’ve been socialized through the education system with inaccurate assumptions learned at home and school:

      • you criticize yourself and others for making mistakes or failing
      • you want what you want from colleagues or staff (they’re being paid, aren’t they?) — regardless of what’s happening in their lives
      • if you don’t get what you want from someone, you find someone else
      • you look at people’s titles and then decide if they’re “useful” as contacts
      • you think that “difficult” people should be replaced with others, lest they “infect” the entire team

Recognize any of these?

No worries — it’s part of the socialization that’s created all the behaviors we see today.

Today’s Emerging Human Culture

A quick internet search shows 1.7T responses when typing “human.” It’s a great sign! We’ve all woken up to the fact that we’re not cogs in a wheel and don’t want to be treated that way. There are conferences now that seek to humanize life, the workplace such as WorkHuman (where I’ll be introducing human-centric leading in May 2016) and Great Place to Work.

To see people as people — is to acknowledge that humans encompass a totality of goals, ideas, dreams, skills, experiences, concerns, fears, emotional triggers.

For instance — a case in contrast to seeing people as people: let’s say Manisha in finance is supposed to provide the business case for your strategic partnership in Russia. You depend on it to get corporate funding and you’re getting ready for a meeting with the CEO. She’s late in sending her numbers. You call, email, text and get no response. You get anxious and angry because your project may be delayed for no fault of your own. You judge her as unreliable and blame her for being unresponsive. You send long emails cc’ing the world and maybe even escalate to her boss.

Sound vaguely familiar?

When you see people as people, you know they always do their best within a specific context. You see Manisha and assume there are good reasons she’s not responding. You wonder, if THAT’S her best — being late with a promise and not responding to messages, what must be going on in her world? With that level of empathy, you write completely different texts and emails. You ask her how she’s doing; you ask her what can be done to get ready for the CEO meeting; you collaborate. No judgement, no blame, just co-defining a solution that works amidst varying priorities. You’re both smart, you can find creative ways to handle the situation. In doing so, you nurture positive relationships and intelligence problem solving in times of stress and process breakdown, instead of spreading judgements and blame. You find solutions and expand your credibility and influence.


Try This

Start with yourself: notice if you’ve ever expected to be perfect, work without mistakes even when tired, like a machine. Then notice how fabulous it is to be human — imperfect, yet magnificent; unlimited. Notice how you treat the various aspects of you — your body, mind, heart; your need for fun, joy and play; your need for family and friends; your need for interesting work, learning, contribution. How do you treat yourself now? How do you treat yourself when you see yourself as a person and integrate all parts of you?

Second, see other people as people: acknowledge their humanity; their priorities, hopes, ideas, fears, doubts, failures/learning. Revel in how easy it is to solve problems in collaboration with others, when everyone feels respected and understood. Enjoy the variety life gives through each person. Notice how you think, feel and behave when you see people as people and how your outcomes make living and leading a pleasure.

[Image from Freepik]