Farrar's Faucet: A psychologist’s candid, productive and often humorous take on principled business behavior and better business outcomes.

The Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Awards

I am always on the look out for examples of the Basic Interpersonal Skills in action.  Finding a cross-cultural example is even better, so I was very pleased by the Native American award ceremony we went to last night.

It was put on by First People’s Fund and sponsored by a wide range of philanthropic associations including a friend of ours through the Howe Family Foundation, (thank you Carol for the invite).  Please support their work where you can.

Here are the Basic Interpersonal Skills in a nutshell:

1. Treat everyone as you want to be treated
•    With dignity
•    And respect
2. Maintain and enhance other people’s well-being
•    Be specific,
•    Be sincere
3. Always make an effort to make things better
•    Be firm with the facts, and fair with the people
•    Ask for help and engage other people to bring their time, talent and trust

Last night was at the Stepping Stone Theatre in Saint Paul, and the ceremonies were here for the first time after being presented in past years in various cities throughout the US.  The ceremony honors Native American culture bearers:  people whose work gives back to their communities and represents the spirit and culture of their people.

Now I have been lucky enough to see indigenous people performing in lots of places around the world, and last night was different.  I’ve seen Australian aborigines in the Northern Territory, Kecak singers in Indonesia, Japanese Odori, Ndebele and Zulu performances in Africa and even Morris dancing in England.  Sometimes the ceremonies and performances are excellent, but too often they are either semi-cheesy shows aimed at tourists, or occasionally an exclusive privilege few outsiders get to share.

Last night was very inclusive.  The whole aim of the awards and the performances was to showcase Native Americans preserving their heritage and passing it forward.  Some people had brought along extravagant costumes, others looked as if they had just stepped off the street.  In each case the award was for a person who had become part of their wider community by generously sharing their skills and culture.

Lots of award ceremonies honor the recipient as an individual. Here the emphasis was on their contributions to others, the family and tribe they were part of, and how they exemplified the “spirit of community”.  In each case the vignettes of the person illustrated their work, and I kept thinking of the Basic Interpersonal Skills.  What made these people exceptional was not only their unique culture, but how they worked to pass their culture on to others.  They treated everyone with dignity and respect, they were focused on improving the well-being of everyone in their community, and they always made an effort to make things better.

In fact, if you looked at the last skill closely and listened to the stories of the recipients’ social justice activities you frequently heard how they were firm with facts and fair with people, and made significant efforts to engage others in their work rather than trying to do it all alone.

The Basic Interpersonal Skills really are basic, and universal as well.  I thought as I watched how much nicer the world would be if we could all find a spirit of community, and want to be recognized not for what we have, but for what we give.

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