Last weekend I received an invitation to participate in a fundraiser that commemorates Christopher Peterson’s three-word summary of positive psychology, “Other people matter.”
(If the video isn’t embedded, click to see Chris Peterson giving the 3-word summary of positive psychology).
Jordana Cole and Sophia Kokores launched the fundraiser involving t-shirts and sweatshirts to benefit the Christopher Peterson Fellowship Fund at the University of Pennsylvania. Neither ever met Chris, since he died in 2012, long before they attended MAPP. But they have felt his legacy and want to pass it on.
If you’d like to participate in the fundraiser and get your very own “Other people matter” shirt, here’s the link to the fundraiser page. But perhaps you need to read on a little first.
There was some concern in the community that “Other people matter,” might be seen as being in conflict with “Black lives matter.” I don’t know if Chris would change his words if he were alive today. I hope the two messages can co-exist, that people need to be connected to other people to flourish and that black lives are important to our collective well-being. Black lives haven’t historically been treated that way, or else the second message would not be needed. In his message, Chris was telling us not to put ourselves at the center of the stage as if we could manage to be happy by turning inward and working on ourselves in isolation. We are social animals. We need each other. We need all of each other. We need other people.
What Does It Mean to Matter?
I spent some time thinking about what mattering means. It’s a word that we feel we understand, but it’s hard to put in words.
So, I was very happy to hear Isaac Prilleltensky explore what it means in a recent webinar. Here’s what people feel when they believe they matter:
- Other people value them.
- They add value to the world.
Using this as a starting point, perhaps “Other people matter,” could be translated into action by conveying to others that we value them and reflecting back to them the value they add.
Words into Action
We live such interconnected lives that we have opportunities all around us to live according to other people matter.
Driving in traffic? Be aware that all (or almost all) of the people around you are following laws and conventions that make it possible to share the road. Give other people breaks. Be grateful for the breaks they give you.
Feeling hungry? Be aware of all the people who made it possible for you to eat, from the farmers to the bankers that finance the farms to the packagers to the truckers to the grocers to the cook. That’s just a sample of all the people who have contributed to the food on the table. Try grocery shopping in a frame of gratitude. Tell the cashier and the people stocking the shelves how they’ve helped you.
On a call with your mother, child, friend? Observe her joys and concerns. Observe how she has touched someone else’s life in the course of a day or a month. Perhaps share some of these observations with her.
Where can you show people that they matter?
Where can you help them see the value they add?
Peterson, C. (2013). Other people matter: Two examples. Chapter 37 in Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.
Peterson, C. (2013. Gratitude: Letting other people know they matter benefits us. Chapter 38 in Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.
Polly, S. & Britton, K. H. (Eds.) (2015). Character Strengths Matter: How to Live a Full Life (Positive Psychology News). Positive Psychology News. This book is also a fundraiser for the same fund.
Prilleltensky, I. (2018, February 27). The context of well-being. IPPA Positive Psychology Leaders Series.
Prilleltensky, I. (2016). The Laughing Guide to Well-Being: Using Humor and Science to Become Happier and Healthier. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; Reprint edition.
Thank you, Debbie Swick, for the picture of Christopher Peterson. You matter!