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Posts Tagged ‘inclusion’

Conversation with a Purpose

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

rick-harry_smGuest Post by Sondra Thiederman, Ph.D.

I confess – I pilfered the title of this article from a man who was renowned as a wise and insightful pathfinder in the field of diversity, Dr. Roosevelt Thomas. A sample of that wisdom is seen in his statement, “Dialogue is conversation with a purpose.” In essence, he is saying that, in order to have real dialogue, we need to know what we want to accomplish during the conversation – we need to set a goal.

Let’s face it, goal setting is important in any aspect of life. If, for example, we dream of a trip to Paris, but neglect to set a goal of saving the amount of money required, the chances of us ever dining at the top of the Eiffel Tower are pretty slim. That’s because we will spend small amounts on other things along the way and get off track.

The same principle applies to conversation. If we don’t know what we want to accomplish, we won’t make the word and attitude choices that will get us to that goal. It is especially likely that we will get off track if we have a strong emotion associated with the interaction. Here are a couple of examples of what I’m talking about along with the kinds of productive goals you might set for each incident.

Example 1: You have been offended by what someone has said or done.
Possible Goals:
A. To embarrass the person and make him or her feel guilty
B. To educate the person about your point of view

As tempting as option “A” might be (let’s be honest, “guilt-tripping” is sometimes tinged with a perverse personal satisfaction), the most productive answer is “B.” Guilt is, after all, rarely a good motivator of change. Your act of trying to make the other person feel guilty will accomplish little more than making them defensive and, in turn, become utterly unable to listen to what you have to say.

Example 2: You have made a clumsy or ignorant remark that you think might have offended someone around you.
Possible Goals:
A. To show respect for your colleagues by calling attention to what you did and apologizing.
B. To minimize the importance and impact of what you said by ignoring it.

The goal here is “A.” The very fact that you are willing to take responsibility for your error shows, not only that you want to communicate respect, but that you are prepared to model truly inclusive behavior.

To return to Dr. Thomas – “Dialogue is conversation with a purpose.” I think he would agree that, if we don’t know where we are going – whether it be in conversation or in life — we just might end up someplace we’d rather not be.

This article is excerpted from the video program, Gateways to Inclusion: Turning Tense Moments Into Productive Conversations, which features Sondra and a variety of vignettes depicting these concepts.

Sondra Thiederman can be contacted for webinars or in-person presentations. For additional information, go to

© copyright 2013 Sondra Thiederman, Ph.D.




Resolving to Be a Better “You” At Work – 12 Success Behaviors for the New Year

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

No, we’re not going to tell you how to keep your New Year’s resolution to go to the gym, eat more vegetables, or spend more time with your kids.

We are going to suggest a dozen resolutions you can adopt that will make a difference to your career, your organization, and even your sense of personal satisfaction in your work.

These suggestions are all about your interactions with people – including yourself.

Ready?  Let’s go!  Repeat after us … (more…)

It’s Okay to Not Know What to Do

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

You’ve just heard someone say something insensitive. Perhaps it was about an ethnic group, or members of a particular religion, or maybe men versus women.

As far as you can tell, no one else seems to be bothered by what was said, but you’re feeling uncomfortable. Does it really matter?  And if so, is there anything you can do about it?

Difficult moments like these are hard to deal with. We tend not to know what to do.  We don’t want to start a fight; these are people we work with every day.  And we don’t want to be seen as too sensitive, uptight, or politically correct. So what can you do? (more…)

But I Don’t Really Believe That!

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Have you ever been startled to discover yourself thinking thoughts you don’t agree with?

Perhaps you’ve found yourself with foot-in-mouth disease, listening to yourself say something intolerant about – for instance – an ethnic or religious group.  Even as you hear the words coming from your lips, you’re thinking, “I don’t really believe that!”

You’re not going crazy, and you’re not some sort of secret bigot. (more…)

“We Love You…Now CHANGE” – Free Video Clip

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Isn’t it amazing how we can find an individual with just the skills our organization needs, then attempt to change that person so they think and act more like us? Here’s a free animated video clip that shows how unwelcoming organizations can be when it comes to diversity.

Recommended Training Resource: Anyone Can Be An Ally  Featuring subject matter expert Brian McNaught and commentary from numerous individuals, this program puts a face on issues that confront LGBT workers. Viewers learn about unwelcoming vs. welcoming behaviors and are shown how to build a workplace where everyone feels comfortable and fully able to contribute.

Tearing Down the “Walls of Sameness”

Friday, September 30th, 2011

By Steve L. Robbins, Ph.D.

Who out there knows everything?”  (Recognize that I didn’t ask, “Who thinks they know everything?”) No human knows everything. None of us has had ALL experiences. All of us have incomplete knowledge when it comes to our world and the people and ideas in our world. All of us are missing some data—a lot of data relative to the universe of data. And if that’s the case, (that we lack sufficient knowledge in many areas and subjects of which we have little experience), do you suppose we could be wrong every once in a while, maybe even more than every once in a while? I think you know the answer to that question. (more…)


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