“Embracing Diversity”… what does that mean, exactly?
We throw that phrase around like we know what we’re talking about, but chances are people have “diversity” in their definition of what that looks like.
Diversity = Difference
This could be difference in appearance, gender, race, religion … but could also be about differences in perspectives, values, attitudes, opinions – the list goes on and on.
Our perspective is based on our filter by which we view the world. Our filters come from many things including our belief systems and major life events that shape our reality.
For example, those people who “view the world through rose-colored glasses,” often see the best in all situations and people. They are the classic, “glass half-full” type of folks. Do these type of people make you crazy? OR do you love being around them … because you share that same perspective?
So the simple way to determine if you embrace diversity comes down to this:
Do you RESPECT those who are different from you?
Regardless if they look different or have a different perspective from you, can you TREAT THEM WITH RESPECT?
I’m defining respect as an esteem for or sense of worth or excellence of another person.
So how do you know if you’re treating someone with respect? First, ask yourself these questions:
- In what situation did I feel respected?
- What happened in that situation that made me feel respected?
- When have I felt disrespected?
- What about that situation made me feel disrespected?
If you think about your own personal experience in feeling respected or not, it clarifies what respectful treatment looks like/feels like and then you can use that to test how you are treating others.
For example: When I moved to a new community and went to my first neighborhood meeting, people greeted me, asked me about where I came from and my family, complimented by southern accent and asked me my opinion about specific issues that were discussed on the agenda. People smiled, shook my hand as we departed and welcomed me with their words and actions.
In this situation the I felt respected because:
- People asked me questions to learn about me and my background and didn’t make evaluative statements based on my responses.
- They smiled, made eye contact offered me something to drink.
- Engaged me in the discussion by asking my opinion. Again, without evaluating my responses.
- Shook my hand, thanked me for coming and invited me to coffee.
If you sometimes have problems with stereotypes or making pre-judgements of others consider some replacement behaviors:
- Recognize the other points of view. Don’t make a judgement about them.
- Give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t think the worst – think the best.
- Challenge your assumptions. Is my lens/filter creating something that’s not really there?
- Identify the root cause of your thoughts & opinions. Once you’re aware of them, you can begin to consider what is relevant in this situation vs. playing old tapes in your head.
Just think how boring things would be if we were all alike!
Begin to enjoy our differences and RESPECT the fact that variety really is the spice of life!
Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at email@example.com.