Ubuntu is a Nguni Bantu term that we’ve interpreted to mean, “I see you, I see me, and I am because we are.”
This is all about seeing and understanding yourself, appreciating and seeing others more clearly, and seeing the interconnectedness between all people. It’s believing that people are inherently good and want to DO good as well.
It means understanding your strengths, weaknesses, and the impact you have on others. It’s seeing people as people, and not as problems, obstacles, or simply as representatives of the “other” side. (You know what this is like. Someone who has very different religious or political beliefs from you may seem more like a pawn of the enemy and less like a person with the same fears, needs, and desires as you.)
Powerful stuff, right?
Why Ubuntu Is So Important
Ubuntu is crucial for being truly effective human beings, and for collaboration and cooperation.
It improves our relationships and makes collaboration and synergy possible. If we can’t see other people as people, we can’t really work well with them effectively. And if we don’t know ourselves, we can’t work with our strengths or make our best contributions.
Bottom line: a couple, family, company, or any other group can’t truly succeed without Ubuntu.
Here are a few different areas where Ubuntu can help us be WAY more effective.
At Redmond, we’re big believers in the power of synergy.
Synergy is what happens when two or more people or organizations collaborate to produce a result that’s much more impactful than what any of the parties could have made on their own.
We can’t build good relationships if we don’t see other people.
Cultivating Ubuntu will improve every relationship in our lives, from our marriage to casual interactions with strangers. It even makes driving less stressful and annoying when we see other drivers as actual humans and not just as obstacles between us and the grocery store that’s about to close.
People can feel when they’re not being seen. You know when someone doesn’t see you. When you feel misunderstood, you don’t feel motivated to improve the relationship, do you? (It goes both ways!)
If we can’t understand each other, we can’t work together to find good solutions.
You’ve been in discussions or full-on arguments before when someone wants one thing, and someone else wants something completely different. If the two sides don’t take the time and make the effort to truly understand each other, at least one party ends up leaving unsatisfied because, at best, they could only reach a compromise. And much of the time, BOTH parties leave unhappy because they couldn’t find a solution that worked for either of them.
We don’t believe in compromise around here, by the way. We seek win-win situations where all parties are happy with the outcome (even happier than they would have been if they’d gotten their way), and we can’t get there without Ubuntu and understanding where the other person is coming from.
The Three Parts of Ubuntu
Ubuntu is made up of three components: 1) I see me, 2) I see you, and 3) I am because we are. Ubuntu isn’t complete without all three, and you can’t really use Ubuntu effectively if one part is missing.
I See Me
Ubuntu is also about seeing YOURSELF and getting to know yourself. This means understanding your strengths, what you are (and aren’t) wired for, and how you impact others around you. This is super helpful because when you understand how you influence others, you can be more conscious of the effect you have on others and try to make it a positive influence.
I See You
To see others means you view them as people with needs, desires, hopes, ambitions, intelligence, perspectives, and rich inner lives that are just as valid and important as yours. Not as problems, obstacles, or representatives of the other. This ‘other’ might be another political party, religion, country, company, or any other group that “opposes” whatever group you belong to.
“To really see other people is to welcome the gifts only they can bring: their talents, intelligence, experiences, wisdom, and differences of perspective.” -Stephen R. Covey
When people feel understood, they’re a lot more likely to be open-minded and bring their best to an interaction, just like you’re less defensive and more open when you feel understood.
And most of all, it’s respecting others instead of seeing them as problems to fix or means to an end, and about caring about their wants, needs, and desires just as much as you care about your own.
I Am Because We Are
Listen up: we need each other. We are all connected. We can’t harm others without harming ourselves, and we can’t be fully human until we acknowledge others’ humanity.
Humans are social creatures who are designed to function together as small groups. If we can’t work together, we can’t reach our full potential as teams, families, or as a species.
This mode of functioning together is called interdependence, which is another fancy word for synergy. We all have an impact and influence on each other, but we need to see ourselves and others clearly before we can really be interdependent.
Seeing others helps us see ourselves and appreciate who we all are, our strengths and weaknesses, and how we can complement each other to find the best solutions. On top of that, who we are is created in part by those around us. And we, in turn, have a big impact on who others become as well.
How to Develop Ubuntu
So how do you start to internalize Ubuntu and use it in your relationships?
The great thing about this is that when you want to have Ubuntu, you’re most of the way there. Intention works wonders here.
The first step is to WANT to see other people and yourself clearly. The magical thing about this is that once we want to see ourselves and others…we start to. We start noticing things we didn’t before, we assume positive intent (we use this phrase a lot), and our attitude toward others and even ourselves softens.
Here are a few practices to help you get started:
- Assume positive intent. Assume the other person has good intentions—or at least a good reason—for speaking or acting the way they do.
- Be loyal to the absent and don’t participate in gossip or other breaches of trust.
- Seek out other perspectives that are different from yours, and really listen to them.
- Listen to understand, not to be understood (and not to respond).
- Make a habit of learning people’s names and getting to know them on a personal level. Ask questions!
- Notice what others are good at, and what you’re good at too!
You’ll know you’re getting the hang of it when you start seeking out others whose strengths and perspectives complement your own.
We Need Each Other
We can’t build good relationships if we don’t see other people.
We can’t find good solutions together if we can’t understand each other.
We can’t be fully ourselves if we’re stuck in a little box that doesn’t allow us to see ourselves or others clearly.
Our mission to elevate the human experience, which requires us to see ourselves and others clearly so we can all use our gifts and create amazing things together.