What does this time of year (autumn for those in the Northern hemisphere) do with you? I assume that we all have different feelings and opinions about this season. Some like how the sun shines (when it does…), others have the blues thinking about the coming winter, some can’t wait to see the leaves turning to orange and red, etc. This is just a simple example in which each of us has a UNIQUE opinion or feeling about something. And it’s good so because there’s no right or wrong and it makes the world much more colorful and alive.
UNIQUE, the word of the month. I admit that it took a while before I found it. It may be cliché to write about this topic… trust that I’ll find a practical twist to it!
There are many words with UNI-something and they all have the same common root: the latin word “unus” which means “one”. Think about “union”, “universal”, “uniform”, to name a few. Early on UNIQUE had the meaning “forming the only one of its kind” and it got a further sense during the mid-19th century to mean “remarkable, uncommon”.
It is the combination of caracteristics that makes someone (or something) UNIQUE. You are the addition of the elements that caracterize you (quite obviously…). When I say “addition”, I intend to make you aware of how you express yourself. Society or the world around us has sets of values and beliefs: consciously and unconsciously some caracteristics are considered positive, others negatives and some neutral. Some are accepted as fitting together while others are not.
To make my point clearer, I’ll illustrate with an example: a while ago in the newspaper, I was reading about the new government in Spain in conjunction with the wave of migrants coming from Northern Africa. There was a sentence that struck me: “their politics is humanitarian but pragmatic”. I wondered why “but”? As if “humanitarian and pragmatic” isn’t acceptable as a combination, as if it can’t really be humanitarian if it’s pragmatic. Should humanitarian be fuzzy or fluffy? In using “but” between these two words, a judgement is being made that something may not be quite as it’s expected to be. I understood simply that what makes this politics UNIQUE is that it is humanitarian and pragmatic.
Transferred to the corporate world, someone could make the following statement: “Peter has many qualities a leader should have but he is an introvert.” Here it’s being implied that he should be an extrovert if he wants to climb the ladder! It’s mirroring the value that the corporate world puts on extroversion for success. If I would hear the sentence above, I would ask to clarify it. For example: which specific element(s) of Peter’s introversion seem to be an obstacle to a promotion? We may then find out that he is rather slow at forwarding information to others. That’s a more concrete information to work with and less an assumption that his introversion is a problem.
So UNIQUE is including (even if it sounds like a paradox at first). I suggest to work with the preposition “and” in our language. Take note everytime you want to use “but” or “still” and try with “and” instead. See what it does with you, with the sentence you are saying or writing and with those you communicate with. You may think it’s a very small detail and it can make a big impact overall. Actually, I use “but” as little as possible (I could have used it in the previous sentence…) and, if I do so, I do it intentionally because I want to make an effect with it.
I am convinced that if we all start to pay attention to this little detail, we will achieve more inclusion in our relationships at work, at home, etc. As a consequence, more inclusion in the world will be achieved! For an inspired leadership, start with the first step: own your UNIQUEness… and you’ll automatically see what’s UNIQUE in others.