The Importance of Being Human

Today is Friday, so this post is on interpersonal competence.

I love it when things converge.  When I was planning out my posts for this week, I decided that the interpersonal competence post would focus on the importance of being nice and treating all people with the dignity and respect they deserve as human beings.  This is the key to building strong, lasting mutually beneficial relationships – one of the three things that all interpersonally competent people do well.

I got the idea for this post on Sunday when I was watching the NCAA basketball tournament.  There was a commercial for Liberty Mutual Insurance.  This isn’t an ad for Liberty Mutual.  They are not my carrier, and I know nothing about them except that I like their current ad campaign.

In this particular ad, a mother picks up her two kids after soccer practice.  They are waiting with another child.  She asks if the other child needs a ride.  The child says “No, I’ll be OK.”  Her kids get into the minivan and the mother begins to drive away.  She looks in the rearview mirror, sees the other child sitting there all alone.  In the next scene, she and her kids are back on the bleachers waiting with the other kid.  Liberty Mutual describes this as being responsible.  I think it also demonstrates a person (in this case, the mother) being nice to the kid who she could have left sitting alone.

On Monday, I was conducting a workshop for one of my clients.  This client is a retail operation with about 30 stores.  All of their store managers were present.  We were discussing leadership.  More specifically, I was explaining the role of effective leadership discussions.  One of my slides mentioned the importance of treating all of their associates with the respect and dignity they deserve as human beings. 

One of the participants mentioned that he thought this was a great tactic.  A woman in the group spoke up and said that she doesn’t think of treating people with dignity and respect as a tactic, she tries to live her life that way.  This touched off an interesting discussion.  Some people thought you could treat people like you respected them even if you felt you were superior to them.  Others felt that none of us are superior to any other person and that treating everyone with respect and dignity is the right thing to do, because we are all human beings.  None of us are superior to any of us. 

I agree with the second groups’ way of thinking.  I work hard at being nice to everybody I meet; just because we’re all people.  This life stance can be very rewarding.  Here’s an example.  That same evening when I returned to my hotel, I met a couple in the elevator lobby.  I smiled, and said “How are you today?”  At first they looked surprised.  People don’t often speak to one another as they are waiting for, and riding an elevator.  Then they said, “Great, how are you”? 

Just then, another woman walked up pulling her suitcase and yawning.  The man smiled at her and said, “Tired, huh”?  She said, “Yes.  I’ve been traveling add day from Boise.”  By this time another man had joined the group.  He mentioned that he has enjoyed Boise when he has visited there.  The five of us had a nice little conversation as we rode the elevator.  Everyone wished everyone else a good evening as he or she left the elevator. 

Now, I admit that five strangers sharing an elevator having a conversation isn’t all that unusual – but it isn’t all that usual either.  However, all five of us seemed to have our spirits lifted by the small act of engaging other people instead of standing in silence, looking at the elevator numbers.  We were nice to one another, and it added a little bit of brightness to everyone’s day.

I had already finished writing this post when I received Nancy Marmolejo’s latest weekly e mail newsletter.  Nancy is a PR expert.  You can learn about her unique approach to PR by visiting  In this week’s newsletter, she was discussing what she calls the “soft side of PR.”  I decided that I have to add some of Nancy’s thoughts because they converged so nicely with the point I am trying to make in this post.

Here is a little of what she had to say.

“But there is an invisible side to public relations that is just as important as strategies and well-timed campaigns. It involves softer approaches that aren’t as technical as other methods, but yield long-lasting and fruitful results. These pr strategies are rooted in your behavior, your attitude, and the rapport you create with everyone around you. You never know which person you meet today is going to connect you to that key media contact tomorrow, or line you up for an interview with a mover and shaker.
“The soft side of PR is something to be cultivated in your daily actions and practices. It radiates from within and sets into place the energy to attract incredible opportunities, free PR, and fantastic clients.
“Here are winning PR strategies that might surprise you- but will definitely get you long lasting, quality results:
“Be nice to everyone you meet.  This is as much a spiritual practice as it is a good PR strategy. You never know who will connect you to your next big break. Practice being nice to everyone you meet from the grocery store clerks and food servers to the event planners and media connections. Don’t put conditions or boundaries around who deserves your respect; simply show it to all and let the benefits reveal themselves to you.
“Be gracious to your peers and colleagues. To be gracious means to show kindness and warmth to those around you. The more visible and known you become, the more you need to practice graciousness. Rather than develop the superstar ego, remember to show warmth to everyone who proposes business to you (even if you’re not interested), your competitors, and the people who’ve helped you get to where you are. In a nutshell: it’s good PR!
“Work your PR from the inside out and you’ll see what I mean: when others know, like, and trust you, they’ll want to do business with you!”

Nancy gets it.  You can build good relationships with the important people in your life simply by being nice and being gracious.  I call this being human.

My friend Doug Westmoreland and his partner, Dave Boufford, have a great short video on being human.  You can see it by clicking on  Check it out.  I guarantee that it will brighten up your day, and help you become more human.

The common sense point here is simple.  Be nice.  Be gracious.  Treat everyone you meet with kindness and warmth.  Smile at strangers.  Speak to them.  If you begin doing this consciously, you’ll soon find that it will become an unconscious behavior pattern for you.  That’s when you’ll be on your way to becoming a truly interpersonally competent person.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website for more common sense. 

I’ll see you around the web and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand, my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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