Full-Spectrum Diversity: The Five Levels of Embracing Differences

Posted by Gabrielle Copperwheat on Feb 7, 2019 2:12:13 PM


At the 2018 Mid-Atlantic Society of Association Executives' annual meeting in December, Dean Hyers took a wide-angle lens on diversity, beyond race, gender and culture with the claim that diversity is "inside-out,” not “outside in.”

He believes the key commonality driving all diversity issues and opportunities is Point of View (POV). What we need is diversity of perspective and Dean presented a five-step path to embracing divergent POVs, sharing universally simple communication strategies to help diffuse polarization, creating a safe environment for authenticity, and powerfully communicating our own value so we can seize the opportunities that diversity represents.

  1. “Oblivious” The first stage in the path is to start realizing that we are oblivious to the fact that we naturally discriminate, because we are programmed and are used to siding with what matches our own behavior and understanding.
The realization point comes when we admit that if we do not find a line to discriminate we will invariably create one without realizing that we are doing it.

➔ Observe your own behavior and make a conscious effort at breaking the natural cycle.

  1. “Fighting Differences” The second stage in the path is to acknowledge that we are driven away from what is different from us and that we actively fight those differences based on how it affects our own sense of vulnerability.

Understanding that active avoidance of a difference is a way to cope with the disquiet that it generates in us, is the key to surmounting that fear.

➔ Look for the polarization that happens in conversations around you, detect the vulnerability that creates it and diffuse it by creating a safe emotional environment for people to state their points of view.

  1. “Deny Differences” The third stage in the path is that of denial. We make a conscious effort at including everyone, at actively rejecting the concept that “they” are different from “us” thereby creating a bland and generic environment that synthetically levels all and achieves nothing.

 Appreciate the fact that the highest value we have ties into our uniqueness.

➔ Identify your own unique points, learn to live, appreciate and communicate them without fear.

  1. “See the Differences and Accept them” The fourth stage in the path is to clearly see divergent POVs and accept that there is value in this diversity.

Becoming curious about the people who display different characteristics and of the reasons for which they think or act differently accelerates acceptance.

➔ Look through people and differences to find the similarities, find what you like in the variance and like the people that embody them.

  1. “Learn to Adapt” The fifth stage in the path is acclimation to a diverse environment.

 Command and nurture a state of gratitude and appreciation of the many flavors that are found around you.

➔ Communicate across the lines of diversity: create a “we” story by putting others in the protagonist’s seat, give them confidence to share their own uniqueness and value without restraint.