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Post-Election Thoughts: Where Do I Go from Here as a D&I Practitioner?

As I contemplate the results of this week’s Presidential vote, I come around to asking myself: What does this mean for me as a diversity and inclusion practitioner?

I might go down a road that leads me to the conclusion that the no-holds-barred language, stereotyping, and disrespect for differences that we saw in the campaign means that we are done with inclusion – that it was all an illusion anyway, and that even the pressure for political correctness has been removed.

While some may likely use Mr. Trump’s election as a license to hate and exclude, I am choosing to focus on what it means for me in managing my own biases. The outcome of Tuesday’s vote is causing me to examine my behavior as someone who stands in front of diverse groups of people trying to create a respectful and useful dialogue across difference.

I am asking myself whether, in my desire to create greater awareness of privilege in those who appear to be part of a dominant group, am I blanketly pushing aside and devaluing their worldviews? Have I sometimes been tone deaf to the concerns and sense of instability that some groups have as the cultural balance of our nation changes so rapidly around them? Have I sufficiently addressed the underlying fear that giving more opportunities to “the other” will diminish the chances of those who have had advantages in the past? And am I ignoring the complexity of our diversity identities? In short, do I do enough to meet each person where he or she is, putting aside any temptation to judge?

Incorporating the Intercultural Development Continuum™ into my work [a model originally created by Milton Bennett and used by Michael Hammer as the basis for the Intercultural Development Inventory® (IDI®)], has provided me with a way to examine my own thinking and behavior, and a way to talk about orientations toward difference – without judgment. This developmental model says that people and organizations can move from the more monocultural viewpoints of Denial and Polarization, through Minimization, to Acceptance and Adaptation.

It helps in understanding the present state of our country to know that the predominant orientation toward differences (the one found to be most prevalent in the population overall according to IDI results) is Minimization. This mode of thinking focuses on our commonalities and gives rise to claims of being “color blind.” It embraces a “one size fits all” culture. However, what I believe has happened, and is reflected in the Presidential choice of my fellow citizens, is a retreat to the orientation that normally proceeds minimization on the Intercultural Developmental Continuum, which is Polarization. Polarization reflects a judgmental, “us versus them” approach to differences. This shift in orientation is not an unusual phenomenon, since we often revert to earlier development levels when confronted with new situations that make us anxious and uncertain.

Just because we do diversity and inclusion work doesn’t mean we, too, don’t fall into an “us and them” way of thinking. But now, more than ever, we need to role model Acceptance of difference (the next developmental orientation after Minimization) -- even when the worldview is far removed from our own. We cannot continue to advance the work we believe in if we cut off the dialogue.

So, my resolution in the face of the 2016 Presidential election results is to work harder than ever to understand all worldviews, rather than unconsciously dismissing those of people with whom I disagree. This is my starting point for helping to heal the divisions that will surely destroy our country if we do not learn to listen more closely to all the voices around us.

Original article posted on LinkedIn (click here to view)

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