Appreciating diversity

CELEBRATE DIFFERENCE


Think about some of the most creative ideas you’ve ever had. They may have occurred to you on holiday in a new and exotic place, whilst walking somewhere wild and miles from anywhere, whilst skiing down a mountain or, like a good friend of mine, whilst out jogging. In other words, they often occur when your mind is removed from its day-to-day routine and given a chance to see things from a new perspective.

Next time you sit down with a group of friends or family to discuss something, find out what their feelings are about the matter rather than jumping straight in with what you think. Encourage everyone to listen to each person’s thoughts until they fully understand why each person feels the way they do. Ask that nobody make any decisions at this point and suggest that instead they spend a few days with everyone’s thoughts before coming back with any proposals.

If we can accept this, then why aren’t we prepared to let others take us to new and exciting places in our brains? What I’m talking about is giving ourselves the opportunity to share our ideas fully and be listened to without interruption, judgement or challenge. With a group of people, whether it’s a family group or a business meeting. Our best chance of creating a really innovative and exiting way forward is to have a mix of ages, experience, background and culture involved. And having accepted that this diversity will provide a wonderful opportunity for developing ideas, we then need to cherish the opportunity.

SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND


Because of our tendency to gravitate towards people who are like us, we need to consciously open our minds to new thinking. In the words of Stephen Covey, and empowerment guru, we need to ‘seek first to understand’, which means we need to ask questions and encourage everyone in the group to share their views without and feeling that they will be judged or ignored.
This is not just about hearing what they think, it’s also about hearing why they think that way and what experiences led them to that place. When we understand why we can start to build new perspectives in our own thinking which is almost like being transported to a new viewing point.

I’ve observed many group discussions over the years and when people really start to work together as a team, exchanging thoughts and feelings without holding on tightly to their own ideas, the results can be amazing. It’s a truly exciting process to watch.

Of course, one area where there can be a huge diversity in thinking is between parents and their children, particularly when the children are teenagers. I remember some of the struggles I had with my children when I really wanted them to understand my point of view because it came from experience and I wanted what was best for them. It didn’t occur to me at the time to ask them more about what they thought and why, I simply felt I knew best. I really wish I’d known then what I know now. These days even when my children are thinking of doing something that I feel really concerned about, I listen and ask questions rather than try to force my point of view on them. The funny thing is they’re now just as keen to know what I really think and why!

Penny Ferguson

“We should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their colour.” Maya Angelou