10 Ways We Experience Dignity

10 Ways We Experience Dignity

At Cornerstones of Care, we are dedicated to making sure all of the children, families and staff we work with are treated with dignity and affirmed in who they are as individuals. However, if we are not aware of the ways people experience that dignity, we are liable to violate it, even if unconsciously so.

In 2011, Donna Hicks from the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University compiled what she calls the 10 Essential Elements of Dignity©. In this list, Hicks outlines the fundamental ways we experience dignity and the principles to adhere to when seeking to affirm that dignity in others.

  1. Safety
    Put people at ease at two levels: physically, where they feel free of bodily harm; and psychologically, where they feel free of concern about being shamed or humiliated, that they feel free to speak without fear of retribution.

  2. Acceptance of Identity
    Approach people as neither inferior nor superior to you. Give others the freedom to express their authentic selves without fear of being negatively judged. Interact without prejudice or bias, accepting how race, religion, gender, class, sexual orientation, age, disability, etc. are at the core of their identities. Assume they have integrity.

  3. Recognition
    Validate others for their talents, hard work, thoughtfulness, and help. Be generous with praise and give credit to others for their contributions, ideas and experience.

  4. Acknowledgment
    Give people your full attention by listening, hearing, validating and responding to their concerns and what they have been through.

  5. Inclusion
    Make others feel that they belong at all levels of relationship (family, community, organization, nation).

  6. Fairness
    Treat people justly, with equality and in an evenhanded way according to agreed-upon laws and rules.

  7. Independence
    Empower people to act on their own behalf so that they feel in control of their lives and experience a sense of hope and possibility.

  8. Understanding
    Believe that what others think matters. Give them the chance to explain their perspectives, express their points of view and actively listen in order to understand them.

  9. Benefit of the Doubt
    Treat people as trustworthy. Start with the premise that others have good motives and are acting with integrity.

  10. Accountability
    Take responsibility for your actions. If you have violated the dignity of another, apologize and make a commitment to change hurtful behaviors.

Learn more about our commitment to the principles of trauma-informed care.