Diversity (or, do you want fries with that?)

DIVERSITY – Why are we so afraid of this word? Why does this one little word cause so much anger and opposition? Why are we uncomfortable even discussing diversity?

It will probably come as no surprise….human beings find comfort in sameness. We thrive on commonalities. In fact, where romantic relationships are concerned, studies have shown that the old adage is wrong – opposites do NOT attract. When seeking a potential mate, we look for common ground – a partner who shares our beliefs, ideals, and social proclivities.

Think about it…when you first meet someone, a potential new friend for example, what is the first thing you do? You make small talk, ask each other questions:

“What do you do?

“Where are you from?”

“Tell me about your kids…oh, you have two high schoolers? Me too!”

In other words, we try to find things that we have in common – it’s a form of bonding. It provides a common backdrop from which the relationship can blossom.

Here’s a fascinating tidbit of information for you Jeopardy players… apparently we are even biologically wired to seek out those who are similar to us. It’s been shown that the people we “choose” as friends are strikingly similar to us genetically – as similar as fourth cousins, according to researchers. The cool thing about humans, though, is that we can rise above our biology. We don’t have to be held hostage by our genes. And, there is something to be said about purposefully seeking out new ideas, people, and situations. (In fact, I wrote about novelty-seeking here.)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt noticed that this topic – diversity – has been in the forefront of the news lately – diversity in our country, diversity in the workplace, and diversity of thought, in general. Most people would agree that the rich exchange of ideas born out of diversity benefits us all. (If not, let me ask you…are you still eating only chicken nuggets and fries or have you changed your “perspective” and diversified your palate?)

Human beings simply can’t change or grow unless they are exposed to people and ideas that offer a point of view in contrast to their own. Abraham-Hicks explains it like this:

“There is room enough in this expansive Universe for all manner of thought and experience. The variety [should] not frighten you, but instead, inspire you, for you are the creator of your own experience! Just because others may choose differently, it doesn’t make you right and them wrong, or them right and you wrong. You did not come forth into this physical experience wanting to take all of the experiences that exist and whittle them down to a handful of good ideas upon which all of you agree, for that would lead to endedness, which cannot be. In other words, for you to understand and experience what you desire, you must understand that which you do not desire, for, in order to be able to choose and focus, both must be present and understood.”

Nevertheless, navigating this territory can be challenging. Because our bodies are hardwired to seek out similarity, we are often uncomfortable or fearful when confronted with difference. How, then, can we learn to value and appreciate diversity?

“Increasing diversity,” surprisingly, creates a paradox: in our attempt to honor and appreciate our diversity, we must begin by recognizing our sameness! Susan Heathfield, in an article entitled “Diversity in the Workplace: Search for Similarities,” underscores this idea.

“By acknowledging the similarities and likenesses, we create a starting point for understanding and appreciating diversity.”

In other words, when confronted with an unfamiliar person or idea, aim to find common ground. Seek first to understand. Take time to listen. Communicate. Approach from a place of Love, rather than Fear. Remember, diversity inspires thought, and thought creates your reality!