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The Object of My Affection

Are you objectifying people unintentionally?

“This is Angie, she’s my right hand.” That was how a colleague/friend introduced me to a group of people who were considering sponsorship of a program run by a non-profit we were working with, and I was the new kid on the block. She grabbed my hand and lifted my arm slightly and said, “She’s my right hand.” It irked me to my core.

Well, what’s wrong with how she introduced me? Wasn’t that meant as a compliment? Surely it was meant to convey her trust in me to people with whom she already had a relationship.

As I smiled warmly and shook hands around the room, my brain said in response (thankfully not out loud,) “I am NOT your appendage.” I am positive that all good intentions went into her introduction of me. We had a long friendship and a history of achieving great results as a team. But the reference had the effect of implying that was I was less than a whole person.

Which leads me to the topic at hand. Objectification. When we objectify people, we lose sight of their value.

Words matter. Labels matter. You can thank my Grandpa for my point of view.

Every Sunday we went to my grandparents’ house after church for dinner. It was a full house every week - a minimum of 15 people, and usually by the time we got to the inevitable pinochle game and dessert there were often more than that crammed around the dining room table. Kind of a thanksgiving scenario on a weekly basis.

On one of those Sundays when I was about 9, my Aunt Yo asked me to get her a cup of coffee. As I set it next to her, she said “Thanks, Dolly!” and gave me a little hug. I smiled and went back to sit next to Grandpa, who pulled me in close and whispered, “Don’t ever let anyone call you Doll or Dolly. A doll is a mannequin, and a mannequin is a dummy. YOU’RE NO DUMMY.” It stuck with me. A doll is a thing, not a thinking person.

We do it all the time! We refer to people who may choose to use our products or services as “leads” or “prospects.” If you are in direct sales, you may think of people who joined your organization as “your downline.” We say things like, “you’re a doll,” or “he’s one of my leads.” I am not a lead, are you? We are all people who are making choices about how, when and where to spend hard earned dollars for goods and services. If you are thinking about people who might want to do business with you as objects that might make you money, you are barking up the wrong intention tree.

As you go through your day today, take an opportunity to raise your awareness about how you are thinking about the people you’d like to have as clients and customers, or people on your staff, and your intentions about working with or for them. You just might find that a shift in your own perception of people will lead to a shift in theirs as well.

©2017 Angie Pohlman