I have an invitation for you at work this week – would you be willing to go up to someone you don’t know well or work directly or indirectly with, and ask them to have lunch or a take a short walk during lunch break with you?
Utilize this time to get to know them personally. Meaning go deeper than the normal conversations you might have with them during work hours (i.e. talk about your role or what project your working on).
Take the time to find out about the person, if they have children, what makes them laugh or cry. You both get to control the topics you talk about, ensuring each of you get to create your own safety.
My invitation is simple – take the time to get to know each other, learn to appreciate them for sharing with you something about their life, begin to appreciate and acknowledge the differences you may have. If you do this, in my experience the next time you disagree with them over something, you will be less likely to jump to judgment and much more likely to ask them questions (i.e. ask genuine clarifying questions because you want to understand them). This will help build trust and respect between you.
Personally, I have to say something incredible happens when I do this. I begin to look past gender, color and every other label out there and the only thing I see is the lovely face in front of me. By good fortune, this simple act has supported me to become a kinder person not just externally but internally. Loving oneself, there’s a concept to change hate.
You may feel in light of the past seven days I am simplifying the seriousness of diversity and freedom of speech challenge. That is not my intention. Instead, I want to do something that is in my control and I believe helps to break down old beliefs and judgments, which will help to welcome diversity in our jobs and personal lives.