Diversity on a deeper level?
March 15, 2011 2:59 PM   Subscribe

I've been asked to put on a diversity presentation/workshop at my workplace on "underlying" diversity--not race, religion or age but different ways people think and communicate. Where do I start?

My manager has asked us to put on a workshop or diversity event that won't focus on the obvious differences but will raise awareness of the underlying differences in how people perceive, think, and communicate.

I think I see what he's getting at, but I have no idea how to start or how to present this information without focusing on the less subtle differences.

Differences that come to mind are: shy/outgoing, internally/externally motivated, curious/reserved, passive/aggressive, entitled/gracious, self-affirming/self-doubting...

Any books, websites, documentaries, other resources or keywords appreciated.
posted by ista to Human Relations (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How about Gardner's multiple intelligences?
Maybe learning styles?
posted by b33j at 3:04 PM on March 15, 2011

A few ideas:

Communication styles. For example, see ask vs. guess or people who communicate and comprehend better verbally vs written and vice versa

Boundaries. There is a whole spectrum of what people feel comfortable with in terms of physical space, emotional space etc.
posted by Kimberly at 3:09 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Deborah Tannen writes on differences in communication styles. Worth a browse.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:18 PM on March 15, 2011

Do a search on Rosetta Lee and "cross cultural communication." She's excellent.
posted by CCCC at 3:21 PM on March 15, 2011

If you can stand the business-lingo doublespeak, cross-cultural communication has some really interesting points about perceptions of time and space, uses of non-verbal communication, and other cultural variables.
posted by Paragon at 3:22 PM on March 15, 2011

You may want to include disabilities, mental illness, and other cognitive differences (colorblindness is one that comes up a lot in education settings.)

You'll actually find a lot of these sorts of differences addressed in basic communications activities for training events. I just did a six-day Train the Trainer series and I swear every third exercise we looked at was about "people look at the world differently, here's how to make people aware of it."
posted by SMPA at 3:32 PM on March 15, 2011

One way to approach this, particularly for a not-huge group, is to perform some sort of trait/preference assessment and then discuss the results. This allows people to learn about the differences in a way that is very personal and meaningful.

The DiSC profile is focused specifically on differences in how people perceive and communicate.

Another nice inventory I have done with a team is the Teamwork and Team Roles Assessment. It is focused on the phases of teamwork and roles within a team and how people naturally prefer some and avoid others.

I like the Enneagram, but some adherents get a little woo about it being connected to ancient wisdom. You can easily use it as a launching point for a discussion about hidden differences without getting into all of that, though.

Myers-Briggs is a classic of this sort of thing.

Even if you don't administer one of the inventories, learning about them might give you some clear direction or a framework for discussing hidden differences.

You might also look into generational differences - it is obvious who is younger or older, but how that affects the way people interact is not always as obvious.
posted by jeoc at 3:40 PM on March 15, 2011

Ask vs. Guess, as first expounded on this website.
posted by zadcat at 3:46 PM on March 15, 2011

The underlying reasons for how diversity in background, cognitive styles, etc. is discussed by Scott Page, in (among other works) his book The Difference. He talks about different contributors to cognitive diversity.
posted by neutralmojo at 5:17 PM on March 15, 2011

There's a really interesting overlap between the underlying diversity or skills diversity traits you're talking about, and the archetypes of more physical/obvious diversity groups. For example, discussing different communications styles is intertwined with generational preferences for voicemail vs email vs texting vs in-person. Different expectations of personal space, or "getting to know you" vs TMI, and many other interaction-type preferences, are often facets of cross-cultural (ethnicity, nationality) diversity issues. Leadership styles and communications styles sometimes have trends along gender lines.

What's changing in the field of diversity, hopefully, is our willingness to work with the traits as being separate from the stereotypes that those traits are associated with. Some people work better with frequent check-ins and regular praise or feedback, and other people would prefer to be left alone unless something's wrong. Discussions of generational diversity suggest that younger employees tend to fall into the first category. Knowing how to tailor a management style to the needs of different employees is a skill that will encourage a diverse workplace. Accomodating different needs is good. Patronizing, or accomodating resentfully, is not so good. Stereotyping, or assuming that anyone under the age of 30 requires special treatment A and everyone over the age of 50 requires treatment B, is in some sense a lack of accomodation - people of Gen Y who don't require A are not being accomodated.

My point being, awareness of the diversity of preference is crucial to taking any action; awareness of a particular person's preferences can be enhanced by awareness of common categories they might fall into. Those categories are sometimes totally unrelated to physical diversity (meyer-briggs types) but sometimes there are correlations that might help clue person A in to what person B might be expecting (expectations of authority/leadership in Chinese culture may or may not be relevant to managing a Chinese employee, but it's worth considering). So, be ready for your discussions to meander toward physical diversity at times.
posted by aimedwander at 7:51 AM on March 16, 2011

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