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A Lesson in Diversity
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7/15/2019 at 5:34:09 PM GMT
Posts: 23
A Lesson in Diversity

The interesting thing about keeping a blog is that, it only means something if somebody reads it. This is something along the lines of, if a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody there to hear it, does it still make a sound? I guess time will tell! I hope you’ll consider subscribing to my monthly President’s Blog, as I want to maintain an active exchange of ideas and dialog with all of you and communicate regularly in a variety of formats.

First let me say that this blog represents my viewpoints, and not those of anybody else. It’s not intended to express the viewpoints of the IAIP Board of Directors, of our management team, nor of anybody other than myself. From time to time I may make statements that you do not agree with; I hope that’s okay. We’re all different and we all have our own perspectives, and I think that makes us great. I value the perspectives of those who disagree with me, because it puts more ideas on the table, more experiences we can share with one another, and more that we can learn from one another. So, if you agree with what I have to say, that’s terrific; but if you don’t, I’m counting on you to tell me and give me reasons why. Share your perspective, so we can truly gain the value of our diversity!

That brings us to a valuable lesson I learned about diversity last week. I’ve always taken pride in being a champion of diversity and having an open mind. Well, maybe the open mind part is a bit of a stretch goal, but I do try! Let me tell you what happened…

I was only a month late completing a mandatory Harassment/Bullying training for work. I needed to crunch it out and assumed I could do so quickly, as I’ve already taken so much training for my role at the office; it’s almost a routine thing every year. The training offered different scenarios, where actors role-played potential encounters we might have in the workplace. My job was to evaluate them, determine whether they could be harassment or bullying and then determine how to address each situation.

I watched a scenario play out that I was sure was on safe ground – a group of people expressing opinions about race, gender, politics, and religion. Nothing abusive, nothing that utilized unacceptable language or tone. Surely, I would not view these discussions as harassment or bullying; I embrace these types of discussions and always have. Many of us discuss these things every day without a second thought.

We each have our own perspectives, our own experiences, our own values and foundations of learning. So, these are subjects about which we may disagree. In my upbringing, these were all safe subjects. My family and friends discussed controversial matters freely, considering it an exchange of ideas. To disagree was okay and to take a polarizing position was equally acceptable, provided we were willing to express the reasons behind our positions and to establish a factual basis supporting them. We learned from one another because of these dialogs.

Imagine my surprise when the training told me that my evaluation of these scenarios was incorrect; these discussions could be perceived as harassment or bullying. I was shocked! The training explained that while, in some families or cultures it is acceptable to discuss controversial subjects, in others it can be offensive or insensitive.  While these types of conversations have always energized and stimulated me, frequently having these kinds of discussions could cause an environment to feel hostile for others.

This was a wake-up call to me that what feels safe and comfortable for me, does not necessarily feel safe and comfortable for others. As a champion of diversity, I learned that I had been advocating my own positions and values without taking into consideration those of others who may feel differently.

To say this was a valuable lesson would be an understatement! I think very often we are so focused on our own needs, beliefs and norms that we forget those for other people may not be the same. To me, appreciating diversity was the bold confrontation of controversial ideas. It may be, but valuing diversity also means recognizing that others may not appreciate such confrontations and it may be more respectful to be sensitive to their needs.

There are lessons in this, that can guide us in our IAIP interactions. We say we value diversity, but do we really, in everyday practice? Perhaps appreciating diversity isn’t as much about how we view the world, but in how we allow others to. Perhaps it’s less about how we think and more about respecting how others think. In our local associations, our councils, our regions, and in IAIP in general, are we looking at the world, and others, through the lens of our own eyes, or are we trying to really understand how others see it? Do we create an environment that we, ourselves find warm and welcoming, or do we strive to understand and create what others will find comfortable and engaging? Do we measure value by our own yardstick, or by the measure of others who may not be in the room with us today? Are we creating the association to serve ourselves or to serve others with whom we want to engage? Is this the association that we find welcoming, or that others will feel welcome to join?

None of these questions has an easy answer. We all want to derive value from our memberships and our interactions, and we want others to gain benefit as well. The point I learned in this training and assessment program is that it’s never as clear as it seems, and when focusing on our own perspectives, it becomes easy to lose sight of the perspectives and value that others bring to a situation.

As I reflect on years past, memories of missed opportunity haunt me. So many times, I heard, “I don’t think this is an appropriate topic to discuss” and I’d struggle to understand why people couldn’t value diversity enough to engage in tough topics. New members might tell us, “people ask my opinion only to tell me why I’m wrong”, “they tell me to do it any way I want to do it, then criticize me for not doing it their way”. As a young leader in my local association years ago, I’d lecture the longer tenured members about being inclusive, only to overlook the value they were trying to realize from their memberships. Ah, the lessons learned and the mistakes we make (and how easily we make them)!

What I really needed to learn from this training is that respect for diversity means looking through the eyes of others and acting in accordance with their needs. Diversity is less about putting forward our own beliefs and more about adapting to incorporate the values of others. More than anything, I learned to never schedule ten minutes for a training and assessment that is going to offer two hours and a lifetime of learning!

Cindy J. Prud'homme, AINS, CPIA, CIIP, CLP
International President 2019-2020
Home Email:
Cell: 810-282-7089

7/17/2019 at 12:31:29 PM GMT
Posts: 8
Vey well said! As a child we were told to live by the golden rule - do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But we now see that may not be the case - we are all different, have different beliefs, different opinions and what is good for me may not be good for the next person. This is a tight rope to walk but we need to be respectful and less critical; be more open to others ideas and opinions. We have a difficult time ahead, trying to rebuild IAIP. I am more confident than ever WE can do this, WE are all in this together - Just remember WE are all coming from the same place - "WE all love this association!"

7/17/2019 at 8:14:58 PM GMT
Posts: 2
I have taken a similar online course and had a similar occurrence (thinking something was fine when it was not in the true golden light of "diversity"). What I find challenging is interacting with others who were not taught, as I was, that it's ok to have these types of conversations as long as everyone is respectful. I am now finding that people were taught to not discuss potentially contentious topics, and now we have a bunch of people who don't know how to have a polite conversation with someone who believes differently. I love that when I have been in conversations in IAIP, for the most part, people DO manage to share their opinions in a respectful way, and those who believe differently DO receive those opinions respectfully. Hopefully, that ripples out to our other communities. Maybe there's hope for our world! Thanks for sharing your experience!

8/2/2019 at 3:35:28 PM GMT
Posts: 58
Nice article
Cindy, the tree fell and I heard it, yes, some articles will get little or no response, but keep going, many read and don't respond Nice article to ponder, I hope all local presidents read it to their groups!

Linda H. Luka
2017-18 IAIP President

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