Personalizing Diversity 7

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Step 6: Value Differences

Diversity expert Mary-Frances Winters urges us to value others as the sixth step in personalizing diversity. Ask yourself: How do differences enhance who you are and can become? What can you learn from differences? Unfortunately we often have been conditioned to think negatively about those who are different, wired to be ethnocentric, anti-other, and insular—staying with our own kind.

Such conditioning makes it difficult to value differences. We have to “de-program” the message that different is bad or deficient. Many of us might deny that we believe different is bad, but we expend inordinate energy conforming to arbitrary standards of behavior, dress and lifestyle. In essence we are suppressing differences.

What if we could advocate for our own ideals while at the same time valuing others who do not share our beliefs? Can we separate the person from his/her position? Can we view a person of a different race/ethnicity/sexual orientation as just different and not inferior or deficient in some way?

Embracing difference creates the opportunity to leverage, create synergy, and ultimately reach higher levels of functioning. Embracing difference, however, inevitably means greater tension and conflict. Opening ourselves to the tension and developing the ability to peaceably manage it, is requisite for learning to value differences. Valuing differences means avoiding cultural barriers.

Step 7: Include Others

The journey to inclusion to this point has mostly been an intellectual exercise – a lot of introspection and learning. Mary-Frances Winters’ seventh step in personalizing diversity is including others, which involves expanding your circle to optimize diversity. What are we willing to do? What actions, what steps, what statements are we willing to make to promote and advocate for a more inclusive, accepting, caring work place and world?

How do we include others in non-superficial ways?

We do this by going deeper than good gestures, but by trying to understand the interconnectedness of all life. When we include others, do we still view the world as them and us? As we reach out do we think of our actions as outside of ourselves or do we see that our actions are a part of a whole, a labyrinth of connections that make us a part of them … that we are all bound together … what you do to/for another … you do to/for yourself.

Inclusion is about seeing the whole … how we are related … the interconnections. As we move toward our journey of inclusion, isolated, independent actions create movement, but coordinated, collaborative, holistic actions create sustained change.

Making a contribution to a civil-rights cause is good. Understanding your connectedness to civil rights now and in the past is even better.

Attending a worship service of another faith is good. Finding the commonalities between your own faith and theirs is better.

Inviting some different people to a social gathering at your home is good. Including some of their traditions or activities is even better.

Regularly thinking about the extent to which I am being inclusive when I make decisions is good. Checking my decision making process with diverse people is even better.

Believing that all things are bound together and taking action based on that belief will hasten our journey toward a truly inclusive world.

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