“…those who divide the world into two kinds of people and…”
you get the picture.
One of my son’s favourite bedtime stories is “The Sneetches” by Dr. Seuss. He particularly enjoys the scene where the Star-belly Sneetches and the Plain-belly Sneetches are racing around:
“Changing their stars every minute or two. They kept paying money. They kept running through until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew whether this one was that one or that one was this one. Or which one was what one or what one was who.”
Human beings are fascinated by the idea of creating in-groups – filled with people like them. A sense of belonging – that there is something that joins ‘us’ together, and separates us from ‘them’.
I’ve also noticed that these false dichotomies always have a value-laden assumption buried in them… the speaker is identifying themselves in the ‘better-kind-of-people’ category, and daring you to say you’re the other… or requiring you to join in solidarity.
So I’d like to suggest there are two kinds of people in the world… people who divide the world into us and them, and people who don’t.
(And no, the irony isn’t lost on me!)
Why? Here are four great reasons to stop being a divider and instead become a connector.
Reason One: Be the Bridge
“The really wonderful thing that happened to me when I was in space was this feeling of belonging to the entire universe.” ~ Mae Jemison
Developing a sense of belonging doesn’t have to be at the expense of others.
Connection isn’t a zero sum game. If I am connected to you, it doesn’t mean I can’t be connect to someone else – or that you can’t be connected to someone else. And yet so often, our insecurities mean we witness a friend, or loved one, or colleague talking to some one else, and we feel threatened.
Correction – your ego feels threatened.
You – the real you – are actually in no danger whatsoever.
What is precious is your attention. What you pay attention to matters – because it tells other people a lot about you. Pay attention to making sure others feel connected – feel like they belong. You will feel good, and so will they.
Plus, there’s an added benefit. People will learn that spending time with you makes them feel more connected and want to spend more time with you, so you’ll never have to worry about ‘not-belonging’.
Reason Two: Rise Above Rhetoric
“Rhetoric is the art of ruling the minds of men.” ~ Plato
When things get tough, or the ego feels threatened, we try to persuade people to ‘join’ our cause. The easiest and quickest way to do this is to pretend that everyone has only binary choices to make. For, or against. With, or without. Tough on crime, or soft on criminals. Right wing, or left wing. Clever, or stupid.
The world really isn’t that black and white. And with the rise of AI and robotics, this is becoming even more true, not less.
Don’t accept simple dichotomies. They are inevitably false.
Point out that there are a heck of a lot more than two kinds of people.
The other reason why rhetoric is bad, is whenever you create a false dichotomy with ‘there are two kinds of people’ type statements, you run the risk of threatening the other person’s ego… and they will react. To attack, to defend, or to flee. Who does that help?
Reason Three: Lead to Serve
“I think leadership is service and there is power in that giving: to help people, to inspire and motivate them to reach their fullest potential.” ~ Denise Morrison
When you carry the responsibility for leading others, you cannot reduce them to simple binary metrics. High performers, and low performers. Givers, and takers. Strategic, and tactical.
You need to meet them exactly where they are and learn what really makes them tick. It is only by doing this that you can:
- Support them to reach their potential
- Connect them with colleagues who will assist them or who they can assist
- Describe the work and the mission in a way that will inspire them to greatness
- Assist them to navigate the organisation and its peculiarities in an effective way
Your job, as a leader, is to create the type of organisation – the environment – where everyone can be successful… or realise they are in the wrong environment, and make the choice to leave with dignity and honour intact. This means treating everyone kindly, and empowering people to make their own decisions.
Reason Four: Uphold your Integrity
“Goodness is about character – integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.” ~ Dennis Prager
You don’t have to admit it out loud, but I know you’ve been mean to someone at some point. Everybody has. And after the initial rush… how did you feel?
How do you feel when you remember it? You might feel like they deserved it, but actually, deep down, you feel a bit icky about it.
Your own integrity and moral character is really the only thing you have in the world. Material possessions can come and go. Relationships can fade. Even your kids can abandon you. The one person you can’t escape is you…
So be the sort of person you would like to spend time with. Imagine two comfortable chairs in front of a blazing fire on a cold winter’s night, with two cups of hot chocolate on the side table… who do you want to sit there with? Someone who treats people poorly? Somebody who only spends time with people who affirm their own world-view? Or someone who goes out of their way to make everyone feel valued?
I started by saying there are two kinds of people in the world, and offered to help you figure out which kind you are.
So here goes.
There are two kinds of people in the world, those who go out of their way to make everyone feel valued, and those who try to lift themselves up by devaluing others…
You decide which you would rather be.
I want to help you to lead. Not from a position of power, but from exactly where you are now.
So I’m writing a book specifically for you. It’ll be out early next year (28 February 2018 to be precise).
If you’d like to know more, please sign up for i3 Insiders (I don’t spam, just a weekly newsletter) where I’ll keep you up to date on progress, test some ideas, and even share a preview or two as we get closer to launch-day.
Let’s do this!