One of the key skills that people building diversity programs can benefit from is empathy. This often-used but seldom-understood term is the underpinning of much of the practice of inclusion. It consists of a basic question, “What am I doing today to ensure that I fully understand how another person experiences the world?”
We have a limitless capability to understand others but it requires self-awareness and the ability to put our own experience of the world on the shelf, stand back and enjoy learning about other human beings. People run into challenges when they see diversity as a necessary evil and then proceed to ram their own ideas down each others’ throats. Everyone stands around pontificating about how it should be but nobody stays still long enough to really get to know someone else.
Ask yourself the following questions next time you are building any kind of diversity initiative for your business, organization or in your life.
1. Do I fully understand what this person is thinking?
2. Have I removed myself completely from the equation?
3. How can I include the other person’s beliefs/behaviors in my own life starting today?
4. What percentage of my time is spent listening to others?
5. What have I done today to boost inclusion and build diversity?
Diversity doesn’t have to be a scary or foreboding concept. We can actually use it to become more open to ideas and can literally build a path toward innovation and greater collaboration. Those who practice these ideas benefit from moving beyond their own experience and harness the power of other people’s experiences.