New Ideas About Diversity & Inclusion
The goal of Diversity and Inclusion training is to develop respect, understanding and acceptance in a diverse group of people.
Rather than assume that race and gender differences are the primary causes of prejudice and lack of acceptance, it has shown to be more productive to look more deeply at all of the diverse elements of personhood.
Bias and exclusion are common. No one will deny that. But why? Let’s take a deeper look.
Primary and Secondary Elements of Diversity
Visualize a mighty oak tree with a powerful trunk, many branches and countless leaves. Of course, you cannot see how deep the roots go underground.
Below the surface, underground, are the primary characteristics of diversity: Your parentage, nationality, ethnicity, gender and race. Also below the surface are other characteristics you were born with such as how you think, how you learn, how you process information, etc. And the big one: Whether you are 5’2” or 7’2”.
You can do nothing about the primary characteristics of diversity that were stamped on you at birth.
the trunk of the tree represents your values. When you find people with similar values, you make a connection and build a bond of friendship. Friendship, as C. S. Lewis said, is formed when two people discover that they are walking the same journey, going in the same direction.
the branches of the tree are your education, your previous work experience, the neighborhood you live in, your marital status and whether or not you have children, or if you attend a certain church.
The leaves of the tree are intriguing. The leaves represent all your life experiences. Here, in the leaves, you can find common ground with diverse others and begin the quest for inclusion. It is here that you find out if they like Italian food, or Mexican food, if they like cats or dogs, or like to hunt, or like Broadway plays. You discover who has grandparents living, who grew up with siblings, where they grew up, who has traveled to Mexico, England, Japan, etc. The list of what you can discover in the leaves is endless.
Why is this important? Because when you learn about a person, you build a relationship. You become friends. The primary characteristics of diversity do not matter very much. And when you are friends and misunderstandings occur, you always give your friend the benefit of the doubt. This is the power of changing the conversation of diversity from what is the color of your skin to exploring the question WHO ARE YOU? Let me learn more about you.
Diverse Personality Types
Let’s dig deeper. Something that irritates you about another person may not be either the primary or secondary characteristics we have just discussed but may be his/her personality. Since the days of Hippocrates, four personality styles have been identified. Those four styles are:
There are many models and here I have used the DISC model. To help people understand and remember the characteristics, I have given them my own twist.
The D stands for dominant individuals who are assertive producers. They are Fiery Red individuals because they burn with passion. They light the way for others to follow.
The I is for verbal, optimistic and engaging Influencers who love interaction. They are great promoters of ideas and projects. I gave them the Yellow Sun because their personality warms everyone they touch.
Next, we have the S individuals who are steady and stable people. I affectionally call them the Green Oak Trees. They are moderate, cooperative, and collaborative individuals. I have an Oak tree in my yard and the leaves do not fall off until January. This is characteristics of Steady, Green individuals. When others have given up on the project, the Green S individual is hanging in there and working for a solution.
The C individuals are conscientious and compliant. They are detail oriented and make sure all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed. I used the water to describe them. Visualize a stream. The water flows and fills in all the crevasses around the rocks. C individuals volunteer for extra projects and fill in a plethora of details other personalities overlook.
Each personality has unique and positive strengths, and each personality has limitations that irritate others.
To summarize personalities, people are usually a mix of two or three personality types in varying intensities, making understanding personalities complex. Each personality type has incredible strengths. Understanding personality types is important in learning to respect and appreciate human diversity.
Left and Right Brain Thinkers
Now let’s add the complexity of right and left-brain thinkers. A methodical left-brain thinker and a creative right-brain thinker can be miles apart on solutions to problems and it has nothing to do with the primary characteristics of diversity.
Left-brain thinkers tend to be vertical thinkers with vertical logic. They think like a row of dominoes falling, knocking the next one down, one at a time. Their thought process can be compared to climbing a ladder one rung at a time. They:
- Find the fastest path to a solution.
- Eliminate any obstacle that stands in the way of achieving their goal
- Find distinctions
In contrast, horizontal right-brain logic is more like a ball on the pool table. You hit the ball and it bounces off one wall and may bounce off all the walls of the pool table before it sinks into a hole. The vertical right-brain logic:
- Finds constants
- Makes connections among disconnections
- Uses the principle of inclusion
Next, we have the issue of creativity. Creative, horizontal left-brain thinkers:
- Create new directions
- Create by taking apart
- Reconfigure to find something new
An example of this is Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. She took the perfume of the day apart, stripped out the flower scent, and created Chanel No 5.
In contrast, horizontal or right brain thinker’s creativity:
- Traps unrelated information and builds associations to make new trends
- Makes unpredictable connections
- Connects things not previously connected
For example, in the 1890’s Albert Spalding his on a novel idea to market his sporting goods. He persuaded the famous sports figures of the day to let him put their signatures on his equipment. This marketing technique is still used today, and little leaguers everywhere want their favorite sports star’s signature on their gear.
Tolerance of different worldviews is critical to acceptance and inclusion. Although frequently misunderstood and misused, tolerance means that you “tolerate” people with different beliefs. It does NOT mean that all beliefs are equally valid or that all worldviews are equally true. It means you respect the other person and give them the right to be wrong. You can disagree, you can try to persuade them that your beliefs are better, but you cannot force them to accept your beliefs. Don’t bully or demean them. Don’t require them to change their beliefs because they are different.
Diversity and Inclusion training should not be used to convert people to a particular set of worldview beliefs. Inclusion does not mean “you need to accept my beliefs on politics, religion or sexual preference.”
In summary, visualize all the packages under your Christmas tree. We can make the analogy that they represent the human race. Like packages, we come in all different kinds and sizes, all wrapped in distinctly different wrapping paper, with different ribbons and bows but inside, just like Christmas gifts, are wonderful talents and skills.
All you need to do is to get to know people who are “different” than you are, encourage them to unwrap their talents and character gifts, and identify how their unique skills and connections can benefit your team.
May inclusion be intentional to keep us from unintentionally excluding those around us in our neighborhoods and our everyday life.
This essay was provided by Karla Brandau, CEO Brandau Power Institute.