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!

Written by : drallisonbrown

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14 Comments

  1. Chris Foster September 18, 2017 at 7:39 am - Reply

    Great thoughts Allison!

  2. Denzil September 20, 2017 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    I think your comment at the end about fear is very pertinent Allison. I struggle to understand what it is about us that we often fear something or someone that is different from us, when diversity is such a gift that we should welcome as it brings richness to life.

    • drallisonbrown September 20, 2017 at 8:35 pm - Reply

      All I can think, Denzil, is that we are hardwired to be afraid of “different?” Perhaps it was some kind of built-in safety feature…

  3. Judy Martin September 24, 2017 at 6:53 am - Reply

    I enjoy meeting a diverse range of people, it certainly makes life more enriching. :-)

  4. Suz September 24, 2017 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    No fries thanks. We embrace diversity on a regular basis housesitting around the world. Originally from downunder!

    • drallisonbrown September 24, 2017 at 3:10 pm - Reply

      Right, I remember! Love that! My husband and I have traveled a great deal as a family and our children have learned so much from all of the acquaintances we’ve made around the world.

  5. Diana September 24, 2017 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    Timely discussion Allison. Great thoughts. :)

  6. Angela Noel September 24, 2017 at 1:04 pm - Reply

    Hi! Seeking things and people outside of our realm of experience or comfort zone takes a great deal of energy. Energy we can spend in lots of different ways. I know for myself, even opening a book from an author I’ve never read before takes more effort than opening another Tom Clancy novel. But, what begins as deliberate efforts, I think, results in measurable benefit. When I put extra effort into a new relationship or reading a different type of book or challenging any of my established routines, I also take the time to reiterate to myself what I liked about the new experience. I tell others about it. Basically, I make the effort to reinforce the positive about the new experience to my own brain–like biofeedback when your rehabilitating from an injury. Reinforcing the good, new behavior helps me do it with more ease the next time. I say yes to more things now that I might have shied away from because I’ve trained myself to find the joy in it. That doesn’t mean I’m completely over the “fear” of trying something new, but it does mean my mental doors stay open longer to let the good stuff in.
    I’m so glad you tackle tough topics, Allison. It matters.

    • drallisonbrown September 24, 2017 at 3:07 pm - Reply

      Thank you for bringing that up, Angela. That was something I didn’t go into in this blog, but it’s a very valid point! Sometimes it does take a little bit of extra effort, and in our busy, hectic world, we sometimes simply want ease and convenience.

  7. Erin September 24, 2017 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    As I read your post, Allison, all I could think of was my first observation, and then teaching experience working with children with disabilities. I was very nervous, not knowing what to expect, wondering if I would handle difficult situations well, and just as you wrote, scared if the unknown. It took only days before my feelings of unrest began to melt away. Even though I am not longer teaching in public schools, many of my favorite teaching memories happened in my special education settings. Thank you for bringing to light a topic that is often difficult, but many times turns out positive if individuals take that first step.

    • drallisonbrown September 24, 2017 at 3:03 pm - Reply

      Erin, you are so right! When we take the first step and expose ourselves to “contrast,” our fears melt away!

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