Diversity Beyond the Surface
Diversity is more than a department in an organization or any one label to create civic changes. The most simple and most complex definition is “the state of being diverse; variety”.
The best word I’ve heard recently to help me navigate the space is background. This blog is scary for me because I may unintentionally hit a nerve that I don’t even know is there. I’m sharing opinions, views, my understanding, which are not the same as facts. I respect the opinions, views, and understanding of others even when they differ from mine. I deliberately chose a visual that did not include people because it was difficult to find one that truly conveyed diversity to me. Books are a great symbol of the many layers of diversity.
We were all born somewhere. None of us had a choice in the matter. Yet, that single event sets the tone for our lives.
We can learn to adapt, navigate circumstances and decide to change. However, nothing changes that event. When was the last time you asked or were asked where you were born? Interestingly, I was asked that question this week! In a team building exercise, 11 people shared their place of birth and favorite thing about it. Even the question of what was your favorite part makes assumptions. Is it possible that someone could NOT have a favorite thing about where they were born?
What if the question was – where were you born and what do you want others to know about it? THEN, what if the receiver of that information listened to understand without judgement? Is that too much utopia for the first topic? Maybe…. and it seems really possible.
Have you ever met someone with the exact same experiences as you? If your answer is yes, it’s possible you’ve had your identity stolen and should check your credit report – lol. I’ve NEVER met someone with exactly the same experiences as I’ve had. Of course, there have been a small handful that I share many experiences with. When this happens, I usually say – I found my people. There are far more that I don’t share many experiences with. Are they NOT my people? No. What I really mean when I say I found my people is that the person gets me and I think I get them. Humans want to belong. That is not the same as conform, fit in, be allowed to be or do something.
We each have our own unique experiences that shape how we think, feel, and act. We each have choices for how we integrate those experiences with our lives. If I ask myself about my comment – I found my people – through the lens of diversity I have a different thought. Here goes – tell me what you think – All people are my people. Rather than view experiences as the shared or different, I think – they just are and I have something to learn from any and all of them.
This topic is one of my biggest triggers! I find myself in sooooooo many situations where I either think differently or think I think differently than many of my peers. I spend such a large amount of my time at work that it really challenges me. I regularly wrestle with compromise and conviction.
When is it appropriate to compromise? When is it important to have conviction? I have gotten better at disagreeing and aligning. However, the closer a thought is to my deeply held values, the harder it is to move past my thoughts. So instead of continuing to do the hard thing, I begun to add to my thoughts. I’ve added some questions.
First, is my thought true? We don’t have to believe all of our thoughts and can recognize that our “true” is not Truth. Second, how do I know? That’s a stop me in my thought tracks question. If my answer is I don’t….at the very least I can keep the thought to myself because it may not add value to share it. My observation is that there is a really bizarre phenomena in our world that thoughts have become interchangeable with facts. Does that make anyone else but me a little nervous? I hope for a world where we can share thoughts and have them respected. I don’t want to be convinced to think differently and find it exhausting to attempt to convince others. Influencer? No, thank you. Inspire? Sure thing! I love the words thought leader/leadership.
Are opinions the same as thoughts? For me, not always. However, I do see them in similar ways. I also ask myself similar questions. The main difference for me is the intention or result . When I share thoughts or thought leadership, it’s about giving and sharing. It feels like an obligation to serve by sharing the successes or failures I’ve had that helped me grow as a leader. I’m not attached to the outcome. I tend to see opinions have an intention to convince or influence with attachment to an outcome. For some that works beautifully. I think we need both and prefer the philosophy that I am a leader if others WANT to follow. I consider that inspiration more than influence.
Feelings for me are synonymous with flashes. I have hundreds maybe thousands of flashes on any given day. Some are bright. Some are pastel. Some are dark. They come and go in no particular order. I don’t always feel like I have control of them. However, as I grow and evolve I am better at recognizing what feeling and what thought led to it. I also recognize that the flashes may go as quick as they come, so it helps to take a beat, pause, breathe, close my eyes, etc. versus reacting to allllll the things. Those last two simple sentences have been absolutely life changing for me.
From a diversity perspective, I’ve learned that I am highly sensitive and empathetic annnnnnndddd not everyone feels like I do annnnnndddd that is a great thing. Can you imagine if everyone was highly sensitive and empathetic? What would be different in our world if we appreciated the way others feel and how that manifests? If appreciation is a leap, how about seeking to understand?
The topic of actions is for me the one that causes concern. I don’t believe in sticks and stones…but there can be a permanence to actions that makes at the difference. Our world has become so fast paced that the path from thoughts, feelings, and actions is short and the consequences can be long. Diversity has become a more commonplace word. That’s a GREAT thing IF we maintain focus on the underlying thoughts, opinions, and actions. Individual, group, organization, company, government….actions are all important for us to say we are diverse, live diversely, or honor diversity. What actions serve? What actions cost?
Diversity is so much deeper than what we see. Is it possible that in a world that can feel out of control, we may gravitate to the things we can control like our thoughts, opinions, likes, etc. and lean in to them to such a degree that we lose sight of the power of connection? When was the last time you tried to control something and it went well versus when you connected and it went well? I’m not by any stretch trying to minimize the reality that what we see on the surface plays a huge factor in whether we truly live diversely. My view is that our thoughts, feelings, and actions have the power to create real change. As a human, I have the daily gift of choice for who I will be and what I will do. That comes along with the daily challenge to resist judgement, envy, competition, fear…..and choose acceptance, support, relationship, and LOVE. I am a work in progress. Connect with me so we can work in progress together!