Getting down to the work of healing

“For those who have chosen not to support me in the past…I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.”

Donald J. Trump, 9. Nov, 2016

Back in January I began The Diversity Dividend with a piece about three qualities, openness, curiosity and appreciation, and how the cultivation of these qualities could lead to leveraging the best that is in all of us. In the job of healing our country after a divisive election, I believe that these qualities must come to the fore.

When you are open, you can make connections. When you exhibit curiosity, your connections are deepened as you move toward a better understanding of what it is to walk in this other person’s shoes. When you show appreciation, you let the other person know that they have been seen, heard and valued.

Let’s, therefore, not underestimate the possibility for positive change going forward and accept the opportunity President-Elect Trump has afforded by offering our guidance and help. As people who work to help foster diversity and inclusion:

  • We are no strangers to difficult conversations
  • We wield tools that can help to steer conflict in productive directions
  • We embrace “both/and” thinking, can sit with ambiguity and endeavor to see the glass as half full
  • We celebrate growth and seek to validate multiple routes to personal development
  • We recognize that awareness that there is a problem is a crucial first step to making progress in unraveling that problem

From where I sit, our work is now more rather than less important. Let’s demonstrate the power of openness, curiosity and appreciation and seize this moment to lay the groundwork for an abundance mentality.


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

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Getting down to the work of healing

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.

 

Creative Commons License
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

Diversity: Making it personal while not taking it personally

Diversity is personal. Diversity is about who you are and who I am and all of the ways in which we differ from everyone else in the crowd. Diversity is about our character and our characteristics. We may have many or all of the features that our family circle, work environment or culture deems typical or normal; and yet what makes us the individuals we are is as much about diversity, as much a part of each of us, as it is for someone who does not fit the family, work or cultural molds.

Diversity is also about awareness. Not recognizing the influence of innate or learned aspects of who you are does not mean that these aspects of self aren’t influencing how you think, feel and act. Delving into the sources of your behaviors, be they external and visible or wholly internal, highlights the ways in which you operate differently due to your diversity. This mirror may be cloudy when you first hold it up, however, even a cloudy mirror can reflect back some of the features that make you the unique person you are.

While diversity is personal, it isn’t to be taken personally. That is, your way of being doesn’t have to be wrong for mine to be right – we can both be the way we are and have that be the “right” way to be. However this sense that there is just one right way to be is quite pervasive; I would argue that it flows from our focus on scarcity. With a scarcity mindset, we tend to see things as “either/or” propositions. Under this framework, when your gift, characteristic or choice is recognized as valid, the pool of validation shrinks and leaving less available to validate my gifts, characteristics or choices. In other words, we cannot both be the “right” way: either your gifts, characteristics and choices are the best ones or mine are. This mindset says that my being acknowledged puts me “one up” and you “one down.”

Switching our thinking to a “both/and” standpoint allows us to accept the valuing of others for who they are as a general benefit to all. When your gift, characteristic or choice is recognized, the pool of available validation is enriched. Thus, rather than seeing a personal affront in the celebration of someone else’s way of being, we can rejoice with them in the abundance that exists among us. This alternative mindset says that there is always sufficient validation to go around and that we all are “one up” when any one of us is acknowledged for our value.

In keeping diversity personal and in not taking it personally, three key qualities are openness, curiosity and appreciation. How can I acknowledge the various parts of myself – my gifts, my identities and my challenges – and work to leverage them? How can I acknowledge the gifts, identities and challenges of the important others in my workplace, my team, my home or my playtime – and work to see that we get the best from our joint endeavors? Creating an environment where diversity is truly part of the fabric means that everyone gains when we proclaim the ways in which we differ. Because it is only once our diversities are recognized that we can begin to leverage them. This is the diversity dividend.

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

Diversity: Making it personal while not taking it personally