Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Up Close and Personal

One thing that did not amuse Queen Victoria was that every time she had her regular sessions with the Prime Minister, W E Gladstone addressed her as if she was a public meeting!

During her interminable reign Gladstone was PM for four terms so this duo had ample time to get to know each other.

It was said of Queen Victoria that she sat over England for almost 64 years like a giant paper weight. Royalty must create a measure of distance and the austere photos of Her Majesty make one wonder how anyone could get up close and personal with her. Did she want the PM to call her Victoria or Vicky?

Perhaps the higher one’s standing in life the greater the challenge it is to cultivate the personal touch.

A monarch can look at people and see subjects.
A shop keeper can look at people and see customers.
A doctor can look at people and see patients.
A lawyer can look at people and see clients.
A teacher can look at people and see students.
A politician can look at people and see voters.
A promoter can look at people and see fans.
A pastor can look at people and see parishioners.

It is easy to consign people to categories and see not the person but only their label‑ black, white, teenager, gay, solo parent, divorcee, priest, disabled, unemployed…

We cultivate the personal touch by relating to people in all their uniqueness.
We cultivate the personal touch by taking a genuine interest in who they are and what they do.
We cultivate the personal touch by looking at people intently when we talk [although in some cultures viz. Pacific Island this is not encouraged].
We cultivate the personal touch by listening to people’s words and hearing their cries.
We will speak to people less as a public meeting when we use and remember their names.

Prisons are perhaps the worst places for experiencing the personal touch and this is part of the punishment. Individuality is squelched through uniforms and uniformity of cells and regulations. Traditionally prison inmates have been called by their numbers rather than their names.

A women’s social group decided to write to jail inmates to encourage them. Because they were given only the prisoners’ identity numbers, they weren’t sure how to address their letters in a friendly way. “Dear 70567219,” sounded too impersonal.

In order to break down the barriers one woman wrote, “Dear 70567219 “or may I call you 705?”

Geoff Pound

Image: Queen Victoria

Source: The prison story comes from Reader’s Digest in their first ever E Newsletter, May 2006.