As a consultant, I have helped many organizations facilitate diversity activities and interventions designed to improve both individual and organizational performance. To ensure success, I have found the most important step to take is to communicate the “business case” for diversity throughout the organization. You can do this by taking the following steps:
Next Post: March 2, 2016 – How to Communicate the Importance of Diversity: Step 1
The 7 Don’ts of Multicultural Communication #6 – DON’T Ask Inappropriate Questions or Engage in Inappropriate Behaviors
Avoid asking inappropriate questions or engaging in inappropriate behaviors, especially of a personal nature. In a culturally diverse setting, it is best to stick to business at the beginning of a work relationship. This means you must take care not to ask improper questions or engage in inappropriate conversations. For example, don’t ask about another person’s grooming habits. Don’t ask if you can touch a co-worker’s hair. Don’t ask others about their child rearing practices (yes, I’ve heard questions like these many times). These types of questions can create tension and make people feel uncomfortable. In addition, some people may find these discussions unsuitable for the workplace. Once you have established a strong working relationship or friendship with someone, you may be able to have discussions of this nature. But until that happens, it is best to avoid these types of personal conversations.
Next Post: October 27, 2015 - The 7 Don’ts of Multicultural Communication #7
The last of the 4 steps you can take to reduce stereotyping is by far the most important: identify one step you will take and commit to this step. There are at least three proactive steps you can pursue to reduce the impact of stereotyping in your life. The first, and most powerful, is to increase your contact with the stereotyped group. It has been well established in the research literature that face-to-face contact between members of different groups significantly reduces prejudice. The more positive interaction you have with members of the stereotyped group, the more likely you will eliminate this stereotype. The second step is to actively engage in (or interact with people who actively engage in) anti-biased behavior or statements. In other words, proactively talk about why specific stereotypes are wrong or inaccurate. Of course, you don’t need to tell anyone about your particular stereotypes, but the more you verbally debunk your generalizations, the quicker you will rid yourself of that stereotype. Along the same lines, actively challenging biased or stereotypical statements from others will have a positive effect on reducing your stereotypes. Finally, during communication, consciously decategorize, by saying to yourself, “I’m going to get to know this person on an individual basis...I’m not going to make any generalizations or assumptions”. The reason this works so well is that you have recognized, in your own mind, your potential for stereotyping and have taken proactive steps to stop it. This provides you with a chance to really get to know the individual on a personal level, which will further debunk any stereotypes you may have of members of this particular group.
Next Post: Sept 8, 2015 - The Do's and Don'ts of Multicultural Communication: Part 1 - The Don'ts
In my last post, I described the second step you can take to reduce stereotyping, which is to identify the cause of your stereotypes. The third step you can take is to clarify how your stereotypes impact your interactions with others. Specifically, you must be clear about the actual and potential effects of your stereotypes. For example, if you are responsible for hiring within your company, how do your stereotypes impact your decision-making process? If you work in customer service, how do your stereotypes affect your interactions with customers from certain groups? In both cases there is a very good chance that your stereotypes cause you to make unconscious assumptions that may affect your behavior in one way or another. While this may be difficult to accept, you must be honest with yourself if you are going to be successful at reducing your stereotypes.
Next Post: June 16, 2014 - How to Reduce Stereotyping: Tip #4
In my last post, I introduced the first step you can take to reduce stereotyping, which is to identify your stereotypes. This requires you to be honest with yourself and to recognize that everyone stereotypes because it is a natural outgrowth of human communication and the way we process information. The second step you can take to reduce stereotyping is to determine the origin of your stereotypes. Think about the specific generalizations you make about the members of a particular group. Where do these generalizations come from? Many stereotypes come from the media, family members, friends and other people who are close to us. The more accurately you can determine their origin, the more likely you are to diminish the impact of these stereotypes.
Next Post: June 9, 2014 – How to Reduce Stereotyping: Tip #3
Stereotyping has a powerful impact on our day-to-day lives. Without even realizing it, stereotypes (which are the generalizations we have about the members of a particular group – see my post, The Barriers to Effective Multicultural Communication #1: Stereotyping, for more information) can negatively impact our interactions with others. They can also cause us to act in unintentionally biased ways. Fortunately, there are four specific steps each of us can take to reduce the extent to which we stereotype:
Next Post: May 19, 2014 – How to Reduce Stereotyping: Tip #1
Suspend Judgment. A final step that we have to take in order to remove the barriers is to reduce the extent to which we evaluate and judge others. Now this is very difficult for most of us. That's because we spend so much of our lives standing in judgment of others (e.g., managers evaluating job performance, teachers assessing student performance). The problem is the criteria we use to make those judgments. Most of us use our own values, styles and beliefs as the criteria for how we assess others (this is the essence of ethnocentrism). The more alike someone else is, the more positively we judge them. However, people from different cultures may be unlike us in terms of values, styles and beliefs. It is then that we must suspend our judgment and try to understand others as individuals. And we must attempt to gain this understanding from their cultural perspective, not from our own. The best way to do this is to be more accepting of others. Acceptance refers to a willingness to support and validate others even when you disagree with them. You can be totally accepting of a person while still disagreeing with their ideas or certain beliefs that they hold. You can demonstrate acceptance by actively listening to others, attempting to understand where they are coming from and trying to address whatever issues or concerns they raise. Remember that communication is always best when it supports and validates the other person.
Next Post: May 12, 2014 – How to Reduce Stereotyping
Enhance your self-awareness. To reduce the impact that stereotyping has on your interactions, you must increase your understanding of the biases and stereotypes you have. You must also understand the impact they have on your communication with others, especially those who are culturally different. Remember, stereotyping is a subtle, often unconscious process that can negatively impact the quality of your communication. The best way to increase your understanding of your stereotypes is to ask for both positive and constructive feedback from people you trust and respect. You should include individuals that have had an opportunity to interact with you over a period of time. They can provide you with useful information regarding your behavior and performance in a variety of situations. Most importantly, they may see something in your behavior that you will not discover on your own.
Next Post: April 14, 2014 – Removing the Barriers to Effective Multicultural Communication # 2
In my last three posts, I introduced the 3 barriers to effective multicultural communication. These barriers, which include stereotyping, a lack of understanding and judgmental attitudes, have the potential to cause significant communication problems in diverse organizational settings. Fortunately, there are specific steps that each of us can take to help remove these barriers. These steps include:
Next Post: March 31, 2014 – Removing the Barriers to Effective Multicultural Communication # 1
The final major barrier to effective cross-cultural communication includes the judgmental attitudes many of us have when it comes to interacting with people who are different. Most of us would like to believe we are open-minded and accepting. But in reality, a great many of us find discomfort with those who are different in terms of values, beliefs and behaviors. We may then evaluate those values, beliefs and behaviors in a negative light. This is the essence of ethnocentrism, where we evaluate good and bad, right and wrong relative to how closely the values, behaviors and ideas of others mirror our own. Put simply, to effectively interact with people who are different from us, we must suspend judgment about their ways, and try to understand them from their perspective. But for most of us, this is much easier said than done.
Next Post: March 24, 2014 – Removing the Barriers to Effective Multicultural Communication
Dr. Tyrone A. Holmes is an author, speaker, coach and consultant. He helps his clients develop the skills needed to communicate, resolve conflict, solve problems and improve performance in diverse organizational settings.