DIVERSITY: Tolerance Through Communication- Part 1

Article first published as Diversity: Tolerance Through Communication, Part 1 on Technorati

Diversity interfaith toleranceThere are many controversies currently happening around us, including the Arizona Immigration law, racial profiling, the Cordoba Mosque and the Dove movement, that inspired me to share some peaceful thoughts, and not get into the debate of who is right and who is wrong or even take sides. Hopefully, I’ll be able to start a healthy dialog.

The US is a great country – if not the greatest; the founding fathers built it on the spirit of human rights, tolerance, and acceptance of all differences. The US is built on diversity, on a combination of flavors to strengthen the foundation of this country, one flavor enhances the other.

One doesn’t have to agree or like everyone, but one has to treat everyone and every person with respect and equality.What someone thinks is their business, how they act it out is what is important as it concerns others. Having flexibility to integrate is what will get us all to the safe side of the river.

Prejudice is a natural human reaction, we all have distrust and fear from people that don’t look like us or are different from ourselves. Confronting our belief system and find our biases becomes crucial so we can make smart choices about our behavior. Healthy conflicts bring positive changes, effective communications provide safe environment to discuss conflicts and differences. Effective communications creates tolerance, which creates acceptance and respect; both are key solutions to most of our problems.

When people are asked what they think represents difficult communications with others, the answers include:

  • People that get angry for no reason
  • People with heavy accents
  • People that talk all the time and don’t listen
  • People that listen to us – then re-arrange our words the way they want to understand them
  • People that always think they are right
  • People with egos
  • People that are indirect.

People assume that people that are different from them either by color, age, race, religion, gender, political views are difficult to communicate with, and this is where the communications’ barriers start erecting.

Just because we speak the same language doesn’t mean that we understand each other, perhaps because of factors like where or the way we grew up, the kind of work we do, or our ethnicity, religion and language origin.

But we can effectively communicate and bridge the gaps to a diverse world, and better understand and respect each other words, feelings, thoughts and actions. Effective communication has many forms; the most practical forms are dialog and debate.

Dialog is a collection of skills we communicate with to develop understanding and trust. Dialog is conducted between two people, or a group of people. Dialog is a non judgmental, two-way conversation. It is about putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes and trying to feel how they feel. It is about developing sets of shared assumptions to use as a foundation to work together to find a way to agree in a non combative way.

While in a debate, we try to win. We concentrate on the weakness of our opponent, on what is wrong with their argument, to prove why our position is right. In a debate we stand our ground, defend our point of view and criticize other perspectives. The goal is to win, but at the end no one really wins.

It is important to understand the difference between dialog that respects both sides, and debate where the belief is that only one opinion is right, and of course it is ours.

In a perfect diverse world, people develop strong opinions. Let their feelings emerge through the process of dialog, but not in a way to cause conflict or in a way to prevent moving forward.

Till we meet on Part 2


Sahar Andrade
Executive Director
Sahar Consulting 

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