Why is Diversity Messy and Triggering?

I believe it’s because no one really knows what it is. Or if they do know what it is, they are still not able to fully ‘walk the talk.’ Why is that?

Contrary to the narrow box in which companies define diversity today — diversity is actually much more than race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual identity.

True diversity is when we can fully accept and appreciate those who look, think, and act completely differently from us.

We Are Not Woke.

Many of us may consider ourselves very enlightened and “woke,” because we have friends and acquaintances of diverse ethnic origins. I would argue that we are still not woke.

When is the last time you befriended someone who had a completely different set of values, beliefs, and life experiences from you? Can you understand and appreciate that person and their point of view, even if you strongly disagree? Can you approach that person with true curiosity and open-mindedness rather than judgment, and aim to explore and empathize with them?

Why is this so hard for us?

It goes back to human nature and the way that our brains are wired. We are conditioned, from the days of yore, to protect ourselves by finding our “tribes:” people who (usually) look like us, think like us, and act like us.

These are the people who make us feel safe from danger and possible “predators” — and indeed, in our past, those who looked different from us had a decent probability of being an enemy.

But things are obviously a bit more complex and multi-layered now, and thus, require a new level of discernment.

Obviously, we have ingrained traumas that have been encoded into our bodies for centuries, and so we are conditioned to viscerally react with a certain amount of discomfort around people who are different from us — no matter how much we try to fight it. Because that’s exactly what we have to do: fight it — it is not natural for us.

How to Achieve True Diversity and Inclusion

I believe true diversity must first be cultivated in ourselves, before preaching it to the outside.

When we can agree to disagree and still find the best in one another, with the knowledge that despite differences, human beings still have infinite ways to connect.

Because we, as humans, have infinite dimensions and cannot be classified by an opinion on any one topic, or even by the way our personalities show up on any one given day.

I feel strongly on this, because I have witnessed my own evolution over the years — and even how day by day, my personality changes, my outlook changes, my beliefs change. I would hate to be judged and written off for some of the things I did and said in the past. We all know how it feels to be judged, and I am pretty sure none of us finds it ‘fair.’

I believe my malleability — the fact that I have made a 180-degree turn from who I used to be in many ways and continue to change — has actually been my greatest gift. It makes me able to understand and integrate very diverse points of view, seeing them all as equal, no matter how loaded and triggering they may be at face value.

The first step for achieving diversity in workplaces and communities is for each of us to admit that we don’t do diversity completely right.

Acknowledging this ‘flaw’ that is present in our common biology— our inclination to judge, label, and pigeonhole — which can be useful when we are dealing with concepts, objects, and places — but may not be so useful, when we are talking about people.

In our increasingly time-crunched society, we are even more prone to ‘judge a book by its cover.’ We encounter one difference or conflict with someone, and we almost instantaneously develop an aversion. We don’t have much time these days to give someone the benefit of the doubt. We push that person out of our minds and likely avoid future contact.

Yes, of course — we have every right to be annoyed with people. We are certainly allowed to avoid people who irk and disturb us.

But let’s remember to remain open-minded and tolerant, as well — maybe we don’t need to write someone off as “annoying” or “unpleasant” quite so quickly, until we have really explored all there is to explore.

Is there really nothing we can find in common with that person, simply because we differed with them on a topic or a few topics? Nothing we find that we like or admire about them? Do we find no shred of humanity in them, simply because we disagree on a certain view— no matter how important that view is to us? Doubtful.

For diversity to really be achieved, I believe we all have to become better people from within, by consciously changing our intention in the way we operate.

Learn How to Be A Kid Again

We must intend to be more open-minded and less judgmental. More tolerant, and less subject to control by our impulses and instincts. To some extent, we have to learn how to approach the world with the eyes of a kid again: innocent, curious, loving, un-jaded.

Some may call it regressing —why would you want to be a kid again? But it can also be seen as progressing: from over-conditioning back to our natural and pure, unconditioned selves.

Our natural, pure selves are not quite so conscious that “I look and think this way” and “that other person looks and thinks that way.” Our pure selves approach every ‘familiar’ person, situation, and experience with brand new eyes — ready to take in, learn, and discover.

Want to bring true diversity and inclusion to your workplace? Learn about our diversity and inclusion consulting work at culturestrategy.io.

Agile HR Coach, Interim HR Lead, DEI Consultant, Medium Top Diversity Writer, and Artist. Co-Founder,culturestrategy.io

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