Words can make a difference – #ArmsR4Hugging

The way you talk about something frames what you see and how you react. Your choice of words is often a signal of your attitude toward to person, situation or topic. Several therapy modes derive their efficacy from helping people to shift the language they use to talk about themselves, their feelings and their lives. How we refer to something also creates expectations — social justice movements reclaiming pejorative words, the effect of grouping people into categories as in Jane Elliot’s “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” exercise and the self-fulfilling prophecy inherent in the nocebo effect are all examples of the how the way something is described can impact our beliefs and our behavior.

There is power in the words we use; labels direct our attention to certain characteristics or aspects of the people and circumstances we encounter. While calling something or someone by a particular name may not make it so, it does influence how this thing or person is perceived and that perception can come to be seen as the truth. Furthermore, euphemisms can facilitate avoiding the acknowledgement of hard truths about the reality we are living.

As we struggle to come to grips with multiple tragedies across the globe, we may wonder, can our words really make a difference? I want to embolden you to try to answer that question in the affirmative with a small thought experiment:

What if “small arms” were what children use when they hug someone?
What if being “well armed” meant you were set up for hugging at any time?
What if “arms dealers” were offering more and better hugging options?
What if the phrase “bear arms” applied only to teddy bears, etc.?

Perhaps these examples seem trivial or silly, however, doesn’t it strike you that people whose heads are filled with thoughts of children, people hugging and cuddly toys are less likely to be promulgating hate, dismissing dialog and collaboration, or using deadly force? If so, join me in a small act of reappropriation with #ArmsR4Hugging.

 

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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Words can make a difference – #ArmsR4Hugging

The ABCs of diversity and inclusion

A is for acknowledgment. Working toward an inclusive organization involves acknowledging that different styles exist and that different approaches can be equally valid and effective.

A is for appreciation. Acknowledgment is an important first step, but an inclusive organization goes beyond tolerance of different styles to appreciation of the diverse talents of all its members.

A is for action. Appreciation on its own is not enough. We need to take an active role in shaping an environment that offers the space for the diverse talents of all to flourish.

 

B is for breadth. Working toward an inclusive organization involves realizing the benefits of being broad-minded and open to the full range of knowledge, skills and abilities that a diverse workforce presents.

B is for belonging. When we see differences, we need to move to an inclusive outlook where all the breadth that is present is seen as a reason for belonging, rather than an excuse for exclusion, distancing or distrust.

B is for bravery. We can believe in the value of others, however without the bravery point out when that value is being dismissed or people are being asked to compromise parts of themselves to belong, the inconsistency of our words and our deeds will sap our energy.

 

C is for conscious. Working toward an inclusive organization involves becoming conscious of privilege and marginalization and the organization structures that perpetuate these status differences.

C is for curiosity. Awareness on its own can make diversity and inclusion seem like someone else’s problem. We need to get curious about our personal diversities and how we are privileging or marginalizing aspects of our multi-faceted selves.

C is for creative. Once we open ourselves up to the wondrous variety within and without, we have the engagement needed to create new ways of being and working that promote wholeness and acceptance.

 

To do diversity work well, make no assumptions, do your best and see the best in others and be compassionate because becoming more inclusive is a process.

 


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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The ABCs of diversity and inclusion

Coming home or coming apart: Are we losing the battle for peace on the home front?

It’s Memorial Day in the US and people all over the country will be honoring our veterans. It’s also the start of a new PBS series; tonight is the premiere of TED Talks: War and Peace. One of the people featured in the series is Sebastian Junger, whose new book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging was released last week, and who has a distinctive take on veterans’ issues and PTSD that I want to explore for what it says to those of us working as change agents.

“[M]aybe what determines the rate of long-term PTSD isn’t what happened out there, but the kind of society you come back to….In other words, maybe the problem isn’t them, the vets, maybe the problem is us.”

Out there, the mission is clear. Out there, cooperation is vital. Out there, structures are designed to support everyone. Out there, what you are doing is meaningful. Out there, you can make a difference.

Out there, there is a heightened sense of justice, a heightened sense of responsibility and a heightened sense of urgency.

And then you come “home.” The way forward is muddled. There is gridlock in government. There are political candidates promulgating hate. There is senseless violence. And at the same time, injustice, sidestepping of responsibility and apathy seem to be the order of the day.

“We’ve gotten used to it. Veterans have gone away and are coming back and seeing their own country with fresh eyes and they see what’s going on. This is the country they fought for. No wonder they’re depressed. No wonder they’re scared.

Sometimes, we ask ourselves if we can save the vets. I think the real question is if we can save ourselves.”

The times are scary. And depressing. Especially when what we are talking about is finding the will to save ourselves. I remain hopeful nonetheless. I see solutions evolving as we grapple with issues about who we are and what is important to us. I see energy being invested in learning how we can create a society, a culture, workplaces and home-spaces based around belonging and connection, rather than alienation and fear. I want to believe in a country rooted in respect for the individual and for the struggles of returning vets and all others facing exclusion, shame or isolation. Let’s use our talents to build a more inclusive community that can take those struggles, and through honest evaluation of our ills, make the case for greater justice and greater responsibility with all the urgency such concerns are due.

All quotations taken from: https://www.ted.com/talks/sebastian_junger_our_lonely_society_makes_it_hard_to_come_home_from_war/transcript?language=en


Along with my sister, Elizabeth Hirsh, I will be working on be developing a new platform from which to distribute our material on viewing life changing events through the lens of psychological type (material formerly available through CPP, Inc. as Introduction to Type® and Reintegration). We are endeavoring to make the material more helpful, accessible and user friendly, in order to better reach anyone, including members of the US Armed Services, who could benefit from a framework for managing the transition “home to oneself” following a life changing event.

To learn more about our approach, please get in touch: info@hirshworks.com

 

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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Coming home or coming apart: Are we losing the battle for peace on the home front?

Identity is dynamic – what matters is what matters to us

Who am I? At first blush identity seems straightforward. There is some set of characteristics, both inherent and learned, both chosen and given, which defines my identity. Identity seems to come from within. To understand identity, however, we also need to look out, to the environment.

When I lived in Alabama, I was a Northerner. Now that I live in Germany, I am an English speaker. Previous to living in these two contexts, these aspects of my identity were not particularly salient because it was normative to be a Northerner or an English speaker. Moving to these new environments prompted me to reconsider my identity.

Mariann Märtsin has put forward the notion that when we undergo a life transition such as moving to a new place, we are driven to make sense of it and this includes adapting our sense of self to incorporate our new relationship to those around us. To understand identity, then, we need to appreciate that although it feels constant – I am me, I was me and I will continue to be me – identity is something we are creating and recreating all the time. Aspects of ourselves may always have been with us, like my Northern-ness, and yet it can sometimes take something outside of us to trigger our awareness of them.

That identity is constructed and that such efforts at construction take place as the result of life events, should influence how we do our diversity and inclusion work. For example, in my case, this has involved an awakening to my privilege in the US as a Northerner and in the world as a native speaker of English. As such my advocacy can seem suspect, inauthentic, patronizing or self-serving. My presence alone can stimulate feelings of being one down. I need to be conscious of how who I am can stand in the way of my being a catalyst for people forming more empowering personal narratives and claiming the full richness of their identities. This mindfulness around identity being constructed and relational is the diversity dividend.

 

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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Identity is dynamic – what matters is what matters to us

Inclusive leadership starts with self-leadership

In my very first post on The Diversity Dividend, I talked about how critical it is to be aware that diversity is personal, to understand that it is about each of us and who we are, as well as being about others. What I didn’t talk about there was that how we act on this knowledge is also vital. For just as we can recognize the diversity within our families, teams and classrooms without taking steps to build an inclusive environment that allows everyone present to thrive, we can also see diversity in ourselves without embracing or validating it.

In part this is because awareness is often nothing more than registering that something is present. This noticing can be relatively free from judgment. For example, compare “I smell something” — awareness — with “Mmm, what is that delicious aroma?” or “Eew, what stinks?” — evaluation. Similarly, when we become aware of multiple aspects of our identities, we likely also decide which identities make us proud, “Mmm,” and which we are more likely be reticent about sharing with others, “Eew.” Therefore, although we most often talk about diversity awareness in terms of its positive impact, noticing some characteristic or feature about ourselves (or others) does not commit us to affirming or celebrating it or to contemplating how we can leverage it to produce more effective performance. To get there, we need to think in terms of inclusion.

So imagine the self as a meeting. The various parts of you show up and the meeting is therefore quite diverse. But is it inclusive? Only if the environment is one where the barriers to contributing are low, encouragement to participate is high and this holds across the board. Further, the meeting of the self needs to be structured such that different approaches are valued rather than stigmatized. In addition, these approaches are supported not to be nice or as a form of tokenism, but rather because they have qualities that all the meeting’s attendees deem valid.

Both diversity and inclusion need to get personal. We need to acknowledge our multi-faceted identities, the “Mmm’s” and the “Eew’s,” the gifts and the challenges. If we find new information threatening, we can endeavor to stay open, curious and appreciative, rather than trying to suppress or reject the knowledge of our personal diversities. We can treat ourselves with compassion, celebrating positive steps and progress made, rather than giving into the pressures of comparison and conformity. Having established an inclusive atmosphere in our internal worlds, this self-leadership skillset can be transferred to understanding and honoring others in our external world. This is the diversity dividend.

 

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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Inclusive leadership starts with self-leadership

You can choose your world

Imagine a world where positive feedback was considered entertainment at best and meaningless at worst. In this world, your job as a leader is to privilege particular ways of being (hopefully consistent with your own ways) and do the best you can to create regulations and enforce norms that promote these, and only these, approaches. If the best approach has already been found, you make people conform to this. If it is still being sought, you seek to ensure that no one is satisfied with what they are currently doing. You seek out any and all methods that allow you to compare people to an ideal standard and show them where they fall short. In this world, even perfection might not be good enough.

Do this world sound out of balance? Do you get the impression that a lot of energy is being wasted waiting for some idyllic future where all problems will be solved (or some exceedingly gloomy one where it will all cease to matter)? Do you think people are doing their best work or is more time spent trying to cover up what’s going wrong?

Now imagine a world in which there is no scarcity of good ways to be and as a leader it is your privilege to acknowledge where people are flourishing. You look to the past to find out what is already working so that you can build on this success. At the same time, you are open to new possibilities and committed to remaining flexible should the demands of your situation change. Your job is to reward effort and integrity and to make sure that unrealized potential has a chance to surface and grow. Instead of comparison, you practice compassion because the hardest ideal to live up to is simply to show up and be authentically yourself. In this world, good is truly enough.

How often do you find yourself operating as though you lived in the first of these worlds, the one where scarcity and perfectionism are driving forces? How does this mode feel? Don’t stop at your thoughts, attend to your physical and emotional reactions as well. If you can recognize the signs — for example, a sense of unease, heaviness or tension in your body; shame, guilt and fear; unhelpful ruminations about unlikely catastrophic outcomes — you can take an intentional step into the second world, the one where abundance and diversity are the driving forces. All of the energy you’ve been devoting to force the world to look the one single way you see as perfect can instead be devoted to opening yourself up to curiosity about all the other options that might be possible if you only took a moment to accept and appreciate the beautiful, imperfect state that is reality. This freedom to choose your world is the diversity dividend.

 

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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You can choose your world

The rank scent of ranking

If we want to measure diversity how do we go about it? Typically we identify a set of categories and then sort people, objects, characteristics, situations, etc. into these categories (I’ll leave the issue of how challenging it is to discover useful categories for a future post). It’s a bit like botany or zoology where someone is trying to identify the species to which a plant or animal belongs. This sort of measurement is referred as nominal measurement because you are sorting whatever is being measured into named groups. Names, however, are a bit cumbersome, particularly if we are collecting and sorting a large number of things, and thus we usually assign each of our categories a number. If there are two categories, for example, then perhaps we assign 0 to one of them and 1 to the other. We could, of course, have chosen the opposite assignment, 1 and 0, because the numbers are simply a handy shorthand for our categories and carry no meaning in and of themselves.

This convenience is not without its price, though, as what numbers like 0 and 1 imply for most people is at least an ordinal level of measurement. That is, introducing numbers makes people think in terms of an ordering or ranking of the categories, and, therefore, of the things being classified. And just as 1 is greater than 0, assigning the number 1 to a category suggests that it is better or of greater value than the category which was assigned the number 0. Thus these numbers, utilized only to make data gathering and record keeping simpler, may very well induce the “either/or“ thinking associated with the “if I’m right, you must be wrong” scarcity mentality we are hoping to discourage with our diversity work. The ease with which we slip into 1-0 hierarchical thinking rather than 1-1 egalitarian thinking means that while the intention behind gathering diversity data may be to highlight the variety of equally valuable ways of being that exist, through our use of numbers we may instead be perpetuating the status quo of one-up, one-down inequality.

If we take seriously the analogy with botany and zoology, however, perhaps we can begin to disconnect from the desire to make some of our categories more worthy of respect than the others and begin to see them as unordered labels that signal specialization for different environments. Just like the different beak types Darwin identified among the finch species of the Galapagos, most of our personal characteristics can’t be said to be better or worse in the absence of information about the context in which they are being used. And like plant types, character doesn’t typically have a simple scoring system. Thus let’s avoid the artificial competition of 0-1 hierarchical thinking and strive for 1-1 egalitarian thinking where we focus our energies on creating diverse groups and teams: Being our diverse selves allows us to exploit the environments in which we find ourselves and helps us be best placed to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances that make up modern life. This is the diversity dividend.

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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The rank scent of ranking