Personalizing Diversity 6

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Step 4: Open Yourself to Change

Just like our growth as children, our experiences and socialization, as adults, change who we are. We should be open to this. It is important that we not allow ourselves to resist new ideas. While it’s hard to incorporate new information requiring us to re-examine our beliefs, it’s crucial that we do.

Embracing inclusion requires change. It requires a constant re-examining of values and beliefs. Values are formed early in life and don’t usually change unless there is compelling new information or life-altering experiences.

Opening yourself to change doesn’t mean that you become “wishy-washy” and without firm convictions. It simply means that you remain open to the possibility that there is a better way, that new information might support the need for a new belief, and that the world is organic, not static.

There are risks with opening yourself to change. You are more vulnerable, others have a better view of your essence, and you are never quite satisfied with where you are. There is a constant search for more understanding. Opening yourself to change is important work. Diversity expert Mary-Frances Winters encourages people to think about the following questions: What are your opportunities to grow? What are your opportunities to be your best self?

Step 5: Learn About Others

In our post-modern world, we find ourselves living and working with those from different cultures, communities, and nations … people with whom our ancestors fought … people with whom we are still at war today.

Beyond what we learn in history classes, many of us know little about the values and traditions of people outside of our own group. American history often is taught from a very western nationalist perspective, and other countries teach history through nationalistic lenses as well. Even more important than what is taught, is what is not taught. Unless we consciously seek out information about others, what we read and/or hear in media can be very biased and can shape our thoughts accordingly.

Learning about others is a life-long journey of experiences. It is not enough to say, “I know one of them” or “One of my best friends is _____” and think you understand another culture. This leads us to narrow, stereotypical views. Reading about, traveling to, or engaging with other cultures and communicating with diverse people are the best ways to really learn about others.

When we open ourselves to learning about others, we learn more about ourselves. Mary-Frances Winters, author of Inclusion Starts With I, Eight Steps to Inclusion: The Personal Journey, says that in this fifth step of learning about others, we should discover how others are similar to and different from us.

Learning about others shows us how we are connected as a human race and opens the possibilities for collaboration and cooperation rather than competition. Learning about others involves two-way communication.

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