Beyond Black and White

Diversity often gets described as something to do with skin tone.  Black and brown. Red, yellow and white. Throw gender into the mix and you’ve got it all. Right?

Wrong. Diversity is so much more than simply race and gender. And as a side note, Hispanic is an ethnic group, not a race. 

There’s been much political discourse recently about our differences—specifically differences in race, national origin and religion. Much of this discourse has been divisive, and divisiveness is destructive and unnecessary. It’s one of the underlying causes of conflict. 

Why can’t everyone be like me? Is that a political rally cry? Far from it. It’s a chapter in one of our books—The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. In that chapter we discuss:

  • Changing demographics
  • Dimensions of diversity
  • Differences matter
  • Stereotypes, socialization and assumptions

More importantly, the chapter explores the importance of learning about each other—in the workplace and in life. We discuss how to start conversations with people in order to learn more about them—how to be curious in a respectful manner.  Doing so may require exposing some of your own vulnerability, but it’s a great way to build trust among colleagues, team members, and others.

Eric Swalwell, Congressman from California, recently said something that, among a great deal of political noise, makes a great deal of sense. “America is not just the places you like or look like you. It’s the places you’ve never seen and the people you’ve never met.”  

Placing labels, assigning stereotypes and making assumptions about other people is easy to do. Engaging in respectful curiosity is much harder. Take the courage and initiative to learn more about, appreciate and respect the people with whom you work and with whom you interact. In exchange for doing so, you will gain so much insight about other people and your life will be enriched.

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