"I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university."
-- Albert Einstein
Recently, the University of Maryland was honored to host the 14th Dalai Lama for a lecture. To a sold-out crowd of students, faculty, administrators and dignitaries, he offered some of his life lessons and insights. One of his themes was the importance of treating people as people. Sounds simple, yet often not done in the world.
As he stated, "Everyone is born into the world as a person, and everyone leaves the world as a person." Yet we have the tendency to forget that fact when interacting with others. Instead, we get caught up in what he calls "secondary differences" among us. Those could be age, race, ethnicity, religion, wealth, rank or status — and any number of things. When we look at people and interact with them, he said we have the tendency to see all these differences rather than the simple fact that we are all just people. This creates barriers between people, making it difficult for us to trust each other and collaborate.
Treat people as people, with respect. Yes, a simple message, but how often is this carried out even in our work organizations? You would think those would be the most civil and professional places where people would behave at their best. After all, it's not a war zone — or is it?
Just think about your day at work. You might hear people yelling at each other, or maybe they send nasty emails to one another or gossip about others behind their backs. These are very common problems, and sadly, ones I hear about much too frequently.
So what can be done? Perhaps if we all just tried to adopt one simple strategy to treat people with respect, we could make a difference in the quality of the lives of those around us, and our own life as well.