In my work as a peace-building trainer and dialogue facilitator, dignity is situated at the center of all I do. Dignity is our inherent value as human beings. Though our dignity can be violated, it cannot be taken from us. In this three-part series, we have explored what it means to live a life of dignity and how we can be dignity ambassadors in the workplace by exploring five dignity practices. In this final article, we explore five “ways of being” that are necessary in order to honor the dignity of others.
So, what do I mean by “ways of being”? Our way of being is our nature or the very essence of who we are as individuals. Honoring the inherent value in others requires that we embrace five behaviors as our natural way of being. The first of which is fairness.
When we embrace fairness as a natural way of being, we become someone who consistently treats others in an even-handed manner. This requires that we do a significant amount of self-awareness work to uncover any biases that may have previously informed our thinking and shaped our worldview. This is not a one-and-done exercise. Rather, it is a way of being. We must commit to a lifelong journey of self-awareness, remaining open to new ideas. Fairness also means that we honor co-created rules. In my trainings and collegiate teachings, we establish a Respect Agreement at the start of each training or class that establishes clear rules and boundaries for what respecting each other looks like. We develop the agreement together, and then we hold each other accountable to it throughout our time together. By co-creating our respect agreement, we honor the dignity needs established in Part 2 of this series.
The second way of being is always giving others the benefit of the doubt. This means that our natural worldview is to assume the positive intent of others and to operate under the assumption that people are trustworthy. This way of being is about integrity — recognizing the integrity in others and inviting them to recognize the integrity of our actions and motives. This way of being reminds me of the practice of Namaste — the good in me recognizes and honors the good in you.
The third way of being is extending understanding. It is practicing active listening and seeking to build rapport by conveying that what others believe, think, and feel matters. This means we do not jump to conclusions. We embrace curiosity. We ask clarifying questions. We give others the same level of understanding that we want to experience from our peers, colleagues, friends, and family.
The fourth way of being is embracing independence for ourselves and others. The need for autonomy is core to the human experience. We all have a profound desire to act on our own behalf and experience control over our own lives. Experiencing independence and embracing the need for autonomy in others creates a sense of hope and possibility.
Being personally accountable for our own actions is the final way of being that is essential to living a life of dignity and being a dignity ambassador. When we are personally accountable for our actions, we recognize that the impact of our actions (whether intended or not) is solely our responsibility. This means caring about the dignity needs of others, apologizing when we created harm, making restitution, and committing to changing our behavior.
Living a life of dignity is a conscious and deliberate choice. When we choose to honor dignity, we honor the inherent value of life itself. We recognize that our individual value is intimately connected to the value of each and every person, and that there is no hierarchy in that value. I believe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was describing dignity as a way of being when he said, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
Please share your thoughts about this series in the comments section below.
Learn more about dignity as a way of being in my new book, Communicating With Dignity and Curiosity: The Peacemaker’s Handbook for Creating and Sustaining Peace.
Robyn Short is a mediator with expertise in transformative mediation and restorative justice models for dispute resolution. Whether in a corporate, nonprofit, academic or home environment, Robyn assists parties in discovering the root causes of their conflicts, so they may transform their relationships and create new and productive paths forward individually and as teams. Robyn helps organizations through mediation, facilitation, onsite conflict training seminars, leadership training and dialogue circles. Learn more at www.RobynShort.com.