Category Archives: human development

A warning about the use of labels on people

labeling
Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Product labels have their place

Product labels have become increasingly important the more conscious we become about what we consume and purchase. A healthier lifestyle, environmental concerns, and social responsibility are a few reasons we search for and read labels. One ingredient, one raw material, or even a product’s origin is enough for a consumer to disregard an otherwise appealing product. This use of labeling is for both the benefit of the individual and the community. This is, however, where the benefits of labels stop.

Labeling allows us to discern information, however…

In an age of overwhelming access to information, the desire to share knowledge increases, as does skepticism around accuracy and its source. Everyone can’t be right, so who is telling the truth? There is some truth on all sides when we listen without judgment to find common ground and seek understanding.

Humans instinctually discern the goodness and value of the information we gather from our senses. From an evolutionary standpoint, a slip in judgment could have been a matter of life or death. The problem is, too often we make rash one-sided judgments of people and therein lies the danger of labels.

Labeling people leads to dehumanization

labelsOpposing views, as displayed in the political arena, are usually not resolved through inquisitive processes to further understand the other(s). Rather, people with differing viewpoints are labeled in dismissive and demeaning ways. The goal is to diminish their worth and tarnish their reputation. Dialogue under these conditions cannot take place.

Name-calling is unpresidential

Small leadership gestures have a big follower impact. On a larger scale, leadership under an umbrella of fear, threats, and verbal aggression slips into dictatorship. Such a manner of conduct breeds animosity and divisiveness. The contentiousness that results has the propensity to lead to violent behavior and clashes.

Believe it or not, Wikipedia has a “nickname” page for Donald Trump. The list is surprisingly (or not) extensive. This a dangerous political method of dealing with opposition. Labeling systemically condones an “us versus them” mentality, allowing it to become the accepted way of dealing with differences. We are witnessing the damage this divisive behavior brings to our diverse communities.

Labeling places people at risk

Once labeled, a person is reduced to several unflattering stereotypes. Once dehumanized that person is perceived as less than human. Their needs, voice, and value are diminished. Susceptibility to discrimination, mockery, oppression, neglect, and abuse (physical, verbal, and emotional) increases.

In extreme cases, significant harm and even death can result. One needs not to look too far in the distant past to see how hateful and dehumanizing language can lead to an act of genocide. The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 is a stark reminder of how the Tutsi minority for decades prior was verbally degraded and labeled as cockroaches and snakes. What does one do with cockroaches and snakes?

Read product labels, stop labeling people

Continue reading labels on products on shelves and on racks. They hopefully make you a more informed consumer.  A label on a bag of organic apples grown from a local farm helps the consumer determine the value and worthiness of the purchase.

Degrading labels on people are not accurate and only decrease a person’s value. This can become a slippery slope leading to oppression and the likelihood of injustice to arise. Use great caution before consuming a demeaning and dehumanizing label placed on a person. Rather than labeling people seek to understand and find common ground. Take the time to look into what is not on the label.

About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Human Systems Expert, Process Facilitator, Youth Specialist, and Speaker. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. He is also the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.

Possessive Adjectives and Pronouns: We are possessed

Possessive adjectives and pronouns

People are disturbed not by things, but by the view they take of them.” -Epictetus

How often do you use either a possessive adjective or pronoun in your daily communication at home or at work? Does their pervasive use bring about happiness by showing true possession of something or someone? Or do they harbor seeds of unhappiness and disappointment by having us irrationally believe that we possessive objects or people when we, in fact, do not?

Material possessions

We commonly use possessive adjectives and pronouns to show ownership of things. “This is my car.” Is it? You pay for it, you insure it and drive it, but is it really yours? What if it is stolen. Whose is it now? More importantly, how does your perceived possession help you deal with the loss? “I can’t believe my car was stolen! Who would steal my car?” This an extreme example but even a scratch on your car can trigger strong emotions due to your perceived possession.

Think of all the hurt and conflict that results from things done to people’s perceived possessions. Possessions end up possessing us. At any time, any object you possess can be damaged, destroyed, stolen, or lost.  Your belief about the possession ails you, not what happens to it. The stolen car itself does not cause your grief, rather it is your perception of the car you once used! Having a less possessive attachment to an object results in a less reactive response when something goes awry. Your happiness also benefits when you truly see objects for what they are–things.

Personal relationships

We often use possessive adjectives and pronouns to show possession in relationships. “This is my son.” “My spouse is waiting for me.” Showing possession in relationships is equally misleading. You cannot possess a person. Rationally we know this, however, deceptive possessive language clouds our ability to make this distinction clear. “There is no way my son would ever steal, but some other thirteen-year-old would!” My spouse would never leave me!”

In both cases, the idea of possession blurs the ability to see the son or spouse as individuals. The misconception of possessiveness in relationships leads to hurt and pain when expectations in the relationship are not satisfied. Parents, partners, and coworkers personalize behaviors that belong to the other person when they fail to see the child, partner, or colleague as a person who also exists outside of the relationship.

What do we really possess?

Feelings and thoughts may not always be in our immediate control, but we are always responsible for our words and actions. Use possessive adjectives and pronouns when talking about your verbal and physical actions.  No one can make you say anything or behave in a certain way. All that we utter and do are truly all that we possess.

Everything else we claim to possess is just an illusion. Using possessive adjectives and pronouns in any other context can easily mislead someone into believing he or she actually possesses an object or person. Believing these untruths can bring more unhappiness to a person when suddenly there is something wrong with the object or person or if the object or person is no longer with you.

The solution

Be mindful when using possessive adjectives and pronouns and find other ways to express yourself when describing objects or people in your life. For example, instead of saying, “This is Anne, she is my wife” say, “This is Anne, we are  married/partners/a couple.” If someone asks, “Can I borrow your car?” answer with, “Yes, you can use the car.” and not “Yes, you can use my car.”

Happiness is not about the objects and people you believe are in your possession. Happiness is about how you treat them with your words and actions. It is about taking ownership and being mindful when you speak and act. No one can take that away from you—unlike your car—nor can you blame others. The world would benefit tremendously if we all spent more time and energy taking responsibility for our words and behaviors instead of trying to possess objects and people that truly do not belong to us or anyone.

The benefit

Managing family, relationships, and work is about how well you interact with others and  respond to life events. Understanding and accepting what is in your control—namely your thoughts, words, and behaviors—is paramount in improving your ability to cope. Knowing that you only have control over your response empowers you to focus your energy on that.

Minimize the use of possessive adjectives and pronouns to describe objects and people. Focus and internalize the use of possessive adjectives and pronouns when referring to your thoughts and feelings, and most importantly to your words and behaviors. Doing so will improve your well-being. Family, friends, colleagues, as well as strangers, will benefit from your efforts as well!

About the author
Jean-Pierre is a Process Facilitator and Human Systems Specialist. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. Jean-Pierre has dedicated 18 years of work to youth and families in both the United States and Austria. He is the author of “What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.”

Human Development (HD) Can Benefit from Organizational Development (OD)

human development
Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay

Human development is our greatest challenge as a species no matter how technically advanced we become. Digitalization beckons our human development. How can we improve human race relations? Businesses have organization development (OD) to improve relationships and human performance within organizations. If the general human population placed as much emphasis and resources as businesses do on achieving organization development goals, human development would take giant leaps forward. Humankind would benefit and prosper.

Achievable human development goals

How wonderful would it be for humankind to achieve human appropriate OD goals? Below are generally accepted organization development goals. I replaced two words. I changed the word “employees” to humans and “organization” to humankind. Let’s have a look and see how these achievable human goals would read.

1. To increase the level of inter-personal trust among humans.
2. To increase humans’ level of satisfaction and commitment. (In the original form commitment is about the organization’s mission and values. Here it refers to the greater human good—posterity).
3. To confront problems instead of neglecting them.
4. To effectively manage conflict.
5. To increase cooperation and collaboration among humans.
6. To increase humankind’s problem-solving ability.
7. To put in place processes that will help improve the ongoing operation of humankind continuously.

Sounds good to me!

Humanship: Achieving goals that benefit humankind

How committed are we as a human race to achieve these goals? Look closely at each goal and think globally about where we stand today. What comes to mind? How would you score the world on each point? It becomes quite clear that organization development specialists could easily make a career shift to become human development specialists if such positions existed. Maybe governments should consider it. There would be high demand worldwide! A whole new job market. One that requires high emotional intelligence (EI). A job that cannot be easily replaced with artificial intelligence (AI).

I name the process of achieving these human evolutionary goals as “humanship”. You can read more about it in my blog post titled, “Relationship: How the word undermines itself”. According to the OD objectives, whether in business or society, human development is hampered by a lack of trust, funding, value, ethics, conflict resolution skills, emotional regulation, problem-solving skills, mentors, models, and social incentives to develop collectively as a human race. How are the essential human skills needed to achieve these seven goals incorporated in education and training curriculums?

Business development models hamper human development

Why do we struggle as humans to collectively achieve goals 1-7? What impedes human development in addition to what was mentioned above? We mistakingly apply the business development model—profit and market growth—to the human development model. Herein lies the problem.

Businesses achieve profit and growth when other businesses are not as successful in achieving their financial and market goals. Humans, on the other hand, do not profit and grow when other humans are not successful in achieving their goals.  That is the difference. On the contrary, social, economical, and political inequalities promote jealousy, envy, hatred, greed, corruption, crime, and conflict. Unfortunately, to the detriment of our collective well-being, we have primarily adopted the business model of growth and profit as the model for our human development.

Human evolution is not a zero-sum game

The prevalence of consumerism preached daily through media and advertisement has brainwashed us into believing that humans should develop like businesses. Here is what we are told. Humans need to build capital. Humans need to continuously enlarge their market share by amassing assets. We need to become more financially profitable. This is a zero-sum game as there is only so much land, resources, and wealth to go around. The more one acquires the fewer others have. This model may work for business development, but for humans, it can be catastrophic.  The global economy is continuously expanding. As it becomes more interconnected a business model based on the zero-sum mentality becomes even more possible. This too is dangerous when too much influence falls in the hands of a few players. Human evolution works best and is sustainable when we all collectively benefit. Businesses tend to grow at the expense of others, humans do not.

Organization development goals can and should be human development goals. If OD goals can improve human collaboration and performance in the workplace they can also do so in local, regional, and global communities. For this to happen, the terms growth and profit must be redefined for human beings. Humans must view growth and profit as a collective benefit. Businesses grow and profit by monopolizing resources and taking away sales from competitors. Humans grow and profit by sharing resources and giving to others by not seeing them as adversaries but as allies.

About the author

Jean-Pierre is a Human Systems Facilitator specializing in Conflict Resolution, Intergenerational Dialogue, and Psychological Safety. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. He is the creator of the EPIC Model of development and the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.