Have you ever had that conversation with your best friend where you wonder if the color blue looks the same to both of you? Or green. Or purple. The color isn’t as important as the recognition that our perceptions and perspectives might be wildly different in unexpected ways.
Ways that we almost always take for granted.
It’s a natural part of the human condition to automatically apply our own biases and perspectives in our interactions with other people. To unconsciously assume that what we see and think and feel, they also do. And, unfortunately, it’s also a natural part of the human condition to be 100% confident that we’re right and they’re wrong (even if there’s no evidence to support that conclusion).
As a result, most of us remain closed off to a wealth of alternative ways of seeing the world.
Which is a total bummer! Not only because we experience less of life’s infinite variety, but also because we miss out on creative solutions that can only come from a different perspective.
So if you’re feeling stuck and unable to find a way forward, it may be that you need to diversify the voices you surround yourself with.
Representation matters. Seeing and hearing different ways of being broadens our horizons. Education matters. This is how we build understanding, and from there empathy. Empathy that is essential for us to work together and save our collective asses from the global challenges that threaten our survival.
But because we are more likely to invest time and energy in activities that have a clear and meaningful reward (rather than an ambiguous one) let’s look at how Diversity & Inclusiveness can improve your life and business. Getting beyond virtue signaling, and into the true merits of a more diverse community.
· Innovation—numerous studies have shown that homogenous groups are less innovative. If you can’t find an answer to your problem, go talk to somebody who thinks differently. Likewise if you want to figure out something that is totally new and never been done.
· Sustainability—everywhere in nature we see the importance of diversity. This promotes flexibility and the ability to adapt as needed. Which is of paramount importance in the business world, but arguably in our personal lives as well.
· Freedom—we don’t need to fit in if there’s not a common mold! Being surrounded by people who look differently, dress differently, talk differently, etc. gives us the opportunity to explore and express our truly authentic selves.
· Growth—some interesting research has suggested that being in diverse communities can actually make us smarter!
In short, if you truly want to excel (and enjoy the boost to your self-confidence) make sure you’re regularly exposed to a wide and varied range of people and perspectives.
Here are a few ideas on how to get started:
1. Read books (physical, audio, comic, whatever flavor you prefer) by people who don’t look or talk like you do.
2. Look at websites that espouse a different worldview from yours—and use your innate curiosity to genuinely try to understand what experiences might have contributed to their conclusions.
3. Imagine what it would be like to wake up in a different style of home, eat a different style of breakfast, go to a different kind of job with a different method of transportation. Our imaginations are powerful! You might not be accurate, but you will at least shake up your mindset and be less likely to assume sameness with others.
4. Listen when other people speak, particularly those who have traditionally been marginalized. Invite them to share their opinion and insights. Create space and hold it. Undermine the conditioning that causes us to assume racial, ethnic, and class-based hierarchies.
5. Support minority-owned businesses—particularly if they’re in your neighborhood, which will help ensure your local community remains a thriving diverse population. Bonus points for restaurants from other cultures, and trying a totally different cuisine!
6. Do some introspection about the role that diversity & inclusion have played in your life. What was your childhood like; were you exposed to a lot of different influences, or mostly the same? How have you tried to broaden your horizons as an adult? How might you try to moving forward?
Please note that I’m not including “ask a person of color to do more labor for you” or “go insert yourself into a community event without their explicit approval”. There are still intersectional issues we need to keep in mind, so that we don’t unintentionally reinforce problematic ways of being. This is another place where educating ourselves is super helpful.
So many people are struggling with hopelessness these days, particularly around issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
If you're one of them, I invite you to check out Reclaiming Hope.