Whether in the workplace or in everyday life, people are of the highest intrinsic value. There is nothing in the world more valuable than people. This is a point often overlooked. If people are of the highest intrinsic value, then there is nothing you can invest your time, effort, and energy in that would give you a greater return than people. Yes, I realize this is a hard pill to swallow–sometimes the same people who hold this intrinsic value are the same people that hurt us, which causes us to put up our defenses, and people-centricity often gets lost.
People-centricity begins with love, but it’s nurtured by socio-emotional intelligence. You will never become people-centric if you don’t have a genuine love for people. Think about this: each person has a unique mind, one-of-a-kind personality, exclusive emotions, and an unshared individual experience of the world that no one can replicate. How about that for the law of scarcity? So, when we interact with people, we should realize that each person is inimitably special, even if they’re unaware of it. There will never be another one of them, and there will never be another you. You are exclusive. For this reason, when we meet people, it’s imperative to recognize that outside of them, we’ll never experience that personality again. The multifariousness of personality is a diverse gift to us all.
Concerning socio-emotional intelligence: just as we can learn to play a musical instrument, math, or develop any skill, we can also learn socio-emotional intelligence—the ability to comprehend emotional messages, use social cues from others, and successfully navigate various interpersonal situations. It takes deliberate effort and practice through active listening and focusing on the emotional worlds of other people. By understanding the unique value of people, we can place them at the center of our hearts and appreciate their unique gifts, skill sets, and perspectives. When we put people first, whether it be our customers, coworkers, friends, family, or strangers, the care we show becomes trust that can build strong community relationships to bring about diversity and positive social change.
Now, imagine building a house. Upon finishing, you hope to do everything you can to make it complete. You hope to make this a safe, beautiful, relaxing home. As a last effort of completion, you construct a picket fence around your house to never journey outside of your lawn again. How complete would your house be? How fulfilled would you be? Can you imagine how much of the world you would miss out on?
When we don’t embrace other people groups, we limit life to our own narrow understanding and never venture outside of our picket fence. The heart of this matter is a superiority complex in which individuals or groups see themselves as better than other individuals or groups, which can occur unconsciously. This notion of superiority produces ingroup favoritism, describing the tendency to respond more positively towards people that are like us, than people who are unlike us. The consequences of ingroup favoritism can lead to stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, and racism.
So, how do we get rid of ingroup favoritism and contempt for other people groups? First, we must overcome our fear of xenophobia, which is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners, or of anything strange or foreign.” This is an irrational fear; it’s not supported by good logic. Can you imagine embracing xenophobia across other areas of your life that were once foreign (e.g., restaurants, food, college, jobs, friendships, marriage, love, and sex)? I’m sure you realize by now that xenophobia is an irrational fear, and if applied consistently, we couldn’t even live. Consider this: If we can expel xenophobia across other areas of our lives, then we can do the same with our interactions with people. It’s not an issue of our ability; it’s an issue of our willingness. Remember, people-centricity begins with love.
Second, we must embrace an attitude that “all” people are of the highest intrinsic value, not just some. All people are special. Though each person has a unique mind, one-of-a-kind personality, exclusive emotions, and an unshared experience of the world, there are more commonalities that unite us than the differences that separate us. If we can learn to discover our commonalities and embrace our differences, we will have greater experiences with one another.
In closing, we miss out when we do not embrace people who differ from us. Consider this: if everyone looked, talked, and acted the same, the world would be grievously boring. We should appreciate our various colors and recognize the artistic value of our differences as a beautiful, diverse collage of life.