Do you feel dissed when you efficiently and professionally leave voice or email messages…and don’t get a reply?  Do you wonder if you’re expecting too much to be treated with the same respect you offer others?  The problem may be that you’re being objectified, viewed as a “thing” rather than a “person.”  And no matter what hoops through which you jump, you’ll never convince some people that your time and talent are of value.

As kids we learned to classify all matter into one of three categories: animal, vegetable, or mineral.  We humans came under the heading of “animal” because we use emotions, talents, and our brains to accomplish great things. Unlike vegetables and minerals, we are not simply inanimate “things.”

Yet sometimes we may feel treated as if we are not persons. This is called “objectifying” and it’s an epidemic in our fast-paced tech society which bombards us with both important and trivial communication all day long. We’ve also been trained to objectify others such as minorities, the poor, the undereducated, prisoners, and just about anyone else who makes us feel uncomfortable or whom we fear for some reason.  It’s the many keep at arm’s length whatever and whoever they consider to be unpleasant intrusions in their lives.  Sad.

For me objectifying shows up in my profession when I offer complimentary coaching sessions at the end of my talks and workshops.  Most of the time people are easy to reach so I can sign them up for their session.  But then there are those who seem to be living on another planet. I have to call multiple times on different days. No response. Then I email them.  Still nothing. Sometimes I just give up.  After all, I’m doing them a favor by offering a $150.00 value for free.

I sometimes end up feeling as I often did when I was in ministry. For many Catholics I had no name.  I was simply “the priest” or “the pastor,” objectified in my role.  A similar thing happens in business. The “life coach.”

It’s too easy to objectify people today.  We’re able to blow off phone calls by looking at caller ID.  We ignore voicemails and text messages. We let our inbox of emails stack to the ceiling because we deem them “unimportant.”  Why?  Because when we feel overwhelmed we look for ways to reduce distractions.  And human beings are definitely the biggest distractions, if we choose to look at them that way!

Are you someone who blows off people and then gets angry when you’re objectified by others? Are you so busy that the person on the other end of the line is just another annoyance?  And when we contact others with our proposals, questions, needs, concerns, ideas…are we so focused on our own agenda and need to “sell” that we objectify ourselves, as well as the person to whom we are selling?

I work hard not to succumb to objectifying others, including those anonymous customer service souls. Each is doing his/her job and deserves respect. Yet it has to begin with me being curious as to how I might HELP someone.  I also need to care for myself as a spiritual person with multi-level needs. And I have to check in with myself that I’m not driven to prove something to someone.  Ultimately my time is valuable.  And so is theirs.

© Copyright Michael Parise 2017
Portions excerpted from Michael’s book: Life Interrupted, Taking Charge After Everything Has Changed
Since 1979 Michael has worked with individuals and groups to take full advantage interruptions and changes to balance responsibilities, simplify their lives, and find greater productivity and peace.
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