I have always been fascinated by human interaction. I analyze conversations to an embarrassing amount and I know right away when something has unsettled me because my body temperature rises or my heart starts pounding. Even just thinking about a past communication fail can get my heart rate up. I lie awake at night replaying interactions I had throughout the day and making sure I didn't offend anyone or if someone offended me I think about how to bring it up with them. This is not a pattern of thinking that I would recommend to anyone, but it has helped me to notice things about clients, coworkers, friends and family. When I am meeting with a client I have to quickly assess how assertive or passive to be with them based on the signals they are giving me.
Recently I have really been thinking about what I value as a communicator. (Read my last post). I put a huge emphasis on harmony and positivity which is a good posture to have in my field of work. But I have also been thinking about how my cultural background prevents me from understanding or seeing the perspective of clients, coworkers and friends who do not share the same cultural perspective.
It is definitely a hot topic in social services right now to talk about diversity, inclusion, equality, etc all of which I am a firm supporter. However, I wonder what it truly means to be a diverse community. Often I go to meetings where the topic of diversity will come up and we will talk positively about that and then move on. But as I look around the table I see a lot of white North American females making the decisions (myself included). It is true that there are many more females working in the social service field right now, and I have been so impressed with the dedication that my colleagues in the community show everyday. So I don't mean to criticize or take away from the meaningful work that they do, but I do wonder if we are missing key voices because we have set up our workplaces and meetings in a way that caters to people of the same background.
This came startlingly to my attention a few months ago when I was at a community meeting discussing a certain ethnic population in London. At the end of the presentation someone stood up and asked a question along the lines of "So how can my organization help this group of people if they are not willing to come to our office?" The answer was something along the lines of "You can't help them if you aren't willing to go to them first or hire someone from their community that they will trust." There was a few more minutes of back and forth where the questioner tried to defend their practise and the presenter pushed back. The facilitator then politely ended the question period. I left that meeting thinking how much it would have benefitted me to hear the end of that argument. That's when I started thinking that the idea of embracing diversity might be harder than it sounds.
For me right now the question is, am I willing to engage in healthy conflict in order to truly include all types of people in my workplaces, my church, and my home?