“What’s something you value about yourself?”

 

This was the opening question to an informal night of conversation among professionals gathered around the theme, ‘Humanizing diversity in the workplace,’ hosted by ti Communication USA on July 31st in Portland, Oregon.  

 

“My curiosity.”

“I’m introspective.”

“Questioning things, stirring things up.”

“I’m past my use-by date.”

 

The last one, naturally, caught us all by surprise. “I’ve passed my expiration date,” our participant reiterated. What did this mean? And why was it valuable? 

 

For one thing, he was older, on the cusp of retirement, or at least semi-retirement. He had a lifetime of experiences and plenty of opinions to share. He could be candid and frank. He could speak honestly and truthfully, without fear of retribution or reprisal. 

 

With that, we laughed about occasions where we disclosed well-meaning but ‘inappropriate’ things. With our international backgrounds, we all knew what it was like to be in new and unfamiliar settings. We had all been gauche foreigners fumbling our way through clumsy encounters, speaking our truths candidly and frankly, if inappropriately, to our hosts. But rarely were we punished outright for our unintentional sins and ignorance. We relished the grace and forgiveness people the world over had given to us. 

 

Is the workplace that much different?  Maybe we are all gauche foreigners at some point, like when we join a new organization or have trouble fitting in even after working somewhere a long time. We come together – individuals with countless perspectives, backgrounds, personalities, life experiences, worldviews – and we have to merge and make sense of each other and work as a collective unit, a team, an organizational whole. We either fit in to the dominant culture or work together to change it.

 

Real diversity runs deep and beyond our appearances, the identities we choose or inherit, and the box categories we check off on surveys and application forms. Perhaps we can give each other more grace at work, this kindness and forgiveness, when we say and do the wrong things, even hurtful things. The key is to be able to talk and exchange, knowing we all have much to learn from each other, because all our life experiences are important and valid. That’s one way we can humanize our differences – and hold ourselves lightly, with a refreshing kindness. 

 

Treating our workplaces as the U.N. is an imperfect metaphor, but if it helps us in treating our colleagues with compassion and forgiveness, it’s a good metaphor. When we recognize our inner and outer diversities, we especially need those things. Let’s give ourselves that grace.

(by Dimitra Giannakoulias)

In a casual atmosphere, surrounded by Italian-inspired hospitality, Interchange Evening PDX on 31 July 2019 was hosted by tic USA CEO Sabine Amend. Expert facilitator Dimitra Giannakoulias and a group of very engaged participants demonstrated just how very possible it is to enjoy growing positive relationships while addressing a topic which often proves divisive rather than connective.

Through exploring ‘deep diversity’, for example values, groups build a level of understanding that contributes to the establishment of trust and mutual appreciation in teams and work projects. This foundation supports engagement and high performance, both goals considered very important by most leaders and organizations.
 
Further, the conversation lead to the skills that are vital to beginning the path of positive relationships with others who may not yet see that such a reality is within reach. Critical skills include those of the heart, the mind and the hands (know-how). Curiosity and humility, the ability to deal with the ambiguous and complex dynamics of different social worlds, and the courage to take a first step into new social terrain are among them.
 
 
 
ti communication, as a global organization, can help your organization develop these skills and reap the benefits of a human-centered approach to diversity. And, yes, having fun in the process, too.