No two people see the world exactly the same way. When we meet someone new, we tend to judge them based on what we think is “normal,” yet we don’t often take the time to consider what “normal” really means.
Diversity Myth #2: Diversity is all about "them."
When we hear the word “diversity,” we tend to go outward. We think about how people are “different from me.” Diversity is about “them.”
We travel to a foreign country, and we want to learn all about them. What should I do to get along with them? Do I kiss, bow, or shake hands when I greet them? How should I address them? We want to learn all the do’s and don’ts to avoid embarrassing ourselves and others.
In business, we want to understand how to recruit or retain or engage a particular group, so we try to understand what motivates women or African Americans or Millennials. We want to build our market share in a different segment, so we spend millions of dollars researching that segment. We want to set up business in a different country, so we learn the necessary laws to keep us out of trouble, and develop the necessary relationships to facilitate our new venture.
The difficulty is, focusing on “them,” whether in personal or business situations, creates dichotomy. It sets up in-groups and out-groups, which only continue to divide us. We judge our own behaviors as “right,” while behaviors that are different from ours are “wrong.” Even if we can withhold our judgment, we think different styles and practices are out of the norm, when they're really just out of our norm.
Worse, when we think diversity is about “them,” we opt ourselves out of the equation. We don’t stop to think about the perspective we bring to situations or how others might be viewing us.
Certainly, understanding “them,” and wanting to learn about “them,” is helpful, but “they” are not all we need to know. When we only take time to understand “them,” we only get a partial picture of the situation, and we stay stuck in our own perspective.
Diversity Fact #2: Diversity is about me as well as others.
Remember the first Diversity Fact: Diversity is about everybody. That includes each and every one of us! Diversity is not just about how we see other people, it's about how they see us, too. In our effort to better understand “them,” we forget the one thing common to every interaction that we have – “me.” What am I bringing to the situation? What are my views and perspectives? What are my expectations?
Inclusion means we need to understand our own story, so we can better understand the perspective that we bring to every interaction we have.
When we jump straight to understanding “them,” we forget that we see every interaction through our own lens. That lens includes the values, beliefs, and behaviors we have been taught by the many groups to which we belong (our “cultures”). Our lens shapes how we make our decisions about what is “right” and what is “wrong.” We create the world we see through our perspectives, which have been shaped by our own unique learning and experiences.
No one sees the world quite like you do. As a result, self-awareness is a key to discovering your diversity.
Self-awareness can be risky. Why? Because we might learn things about ourselves that we don’t like. That's hard to take, but it's also a very important part of identifying what we might want to change. Without looking inside to understand our own perspectives, we can’t discover the hidden biases that might be holding us back from being more effective in our work and in our lives.
Today, take some time to discover what has influenced your view of the world. And, the next time you want to learn something about “them,” don’t forget to include yourself.
Join me in dispelling the top 5 myths about diversity! You can download my FREE EBOOK entitled 5 Diversity Myths: Debunking Fallacies & Revealing Truths here!
Next: Diversity myth #3: Diversity is about differences.