Reality Check: The People Business

Are you in the “people business”? Almost certainly, the answer is… yes!

In their book, Have a Nice Conflict, Scudder, Patterson, and Mitchell assert that everyone is in the people business. There’s nary a line of work where people aren’t involved —whether you build products, greet customers, run a household, or raise a family.

Even if you accept that the people business is all-encompassing, there’s still the reasonable question: “So what?”

How you look at your “business” has an impact on the choices you make. For example, what does success look like to you? No matter how you picture success, if you recognize that it depends on building good relationships, then you’ll make different choices than if you don’t believe that people are relevant to your success.

Scudder mentions that the most important skill is the ability to work well with people, and that this ability is associated with helping people feel worthwhile. Dr. Wm. Glasser’s choice theory speaks of five genetic needs, one of which is the need for power; that is, each person’s need to feel worthwhile.

So, helping someone feel worthwhile can smooth interactions and help us work together. If that’s so easy, who doesn’t everyone get along?

If one person behaves as if their feeling of self-worth only results from ensuring that someone else doesn’t feel worthwhile, then unpleasant interactions are guaranteed. So, if your self-worth depends on putting someone else down, then win-win (and any form of cooperation) will be hard to achieve!

If you’re on the receiving end of that behaviour, what can you do?

Fortunately, we know that no one else can “make” us feel worthwhile, or not worthwhile, or anything else. How people treat us can contribute to our feelings, but ultimately, we choose how to respond.

One person’s self-worth doesn’t have to come at the expense of another’s. In fact, if you choose to treat everyone with respect and courtesy, you are more likely to have that returned to you; a win-win for all.

If you choose to look at yourself as being in the people and relationship business, then you may focus your interactions a little differently. Do you work in a store? Of course, you know that you have customers! But let’s say you work as a flagger, a lab tech, even for the government… yes, you have customers too. There are obvious ones outside your organization, but you have internal customers as well—your fellow workers, your managers, and the people who work for you. For your own success and for a generally more pleasant society, it is worthwhile to manage your interactions with them.

Even the most basic forms of recognition set the stage for building a relationship: smile, say “Hi,” acknowledge someone’s presence. Listening—really listening—is a powerful relationship builder.

Am I suggesting you treat people well only because of what’s potentially in it for you? No; do it for the win-win—what’s in it for all of us are more pleasant, productive interactions.

Do you see yourself as being in the people business?

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