Over the past few decades, “cultural diversity” has been a phrase adopted and thrown around by the masses, but what does it really mean?
Seriously, if you search that phrase on Google, nearly every article is about cultural diversity in the workplace. One would think that the only value of cultural diversity had to do with improving company profits.
Or learning how to “play nicely” with others from different backgrounds or cultures when you’re at work – and embracing its value because it’s the “thing to do.”
Cultural Diversity beyond the Workplace
Taking a deeper look, when we choose to view the world through a new lens (with a 24/7 mindset) – one that embraces and celebrates our differences – we begin to truly understand the “oneness” of all people. The concept sinks in and becomes a part of our very being.
Being curious, respectful and appreciative of other ethnicities, religious beliefs, politic affiliations, gender identification, and other differences adds immeasurable value to our lives when we are open to widening our scope of understanding.
Learning about and appreciating our differences does not mean that we need to adopt others’ beliefs, attitudes, affiliations, or cultural differences.
It simply expands our base of knowledge, stimulates thinking about our own culture and beliefs, and heightens our awareness.
Here are some common reasons that embracing cultural diversity seems to be challenging for many people:
- Fearing the “unknown” – people, things, and experiences that are new and different
- Assuming people who are culturally different may try to convert you to adopt their views, beliefs or attitudes
- Being brought up in an environment in which respect for cultural differences was discouraged
- Feeling safer with experiences that fall within your typical comfort zone
- Approaching the idea from a place of “ego” and viewing others who are perhaps very different as inferior
It’s natural to be where we are based on our history and where our individual paths have led us thus far.
So you have a choice. Do you really want to stay right where you are?
Or do you want to learn and grow and expand your understanding beyond your current realm of experience?
If you choose to embrace growth, become insatiably curious. Explore. Discover. Engulf yourself in new adventures with a new lens of the world through different people, places, and experiences.
This will lead to a higher level of understanding about yourself and where you fit into the larger universal picture.
But if you’re not used to the idea of exploring beyond the people you typically experience, where do you start?
A Few Simple Ways to Begin Your Exploration
It can be easiest to begin your cultural diversity journey “behind the scenes,” by learning about other groups and cultures on your own at first, before connecting with individuals from cultures that are new to you.
In this way, you can get a feel for cultural differences and let those ideas sink in. It also gives you some conversation material, as you can mention something you’ve seen or read as a spring board for dialogue about it.
You can learn a lot about different cultures most simply through their art and their food.
- Watch foreign or independent films about other cultures. Independent films are often character-driven and offer insights about how people within a culture interrelate, what their cultural priorities are, and ways of speaking. You can find films about other ethnicities, as well as political affiliations, religious beliefs, gender identification, and other groups.
- Watching documentaries about a given culture or group can offer information about its history, beliefs, challenges, music, politics, and more.
- Similar to the above, read books about other groups and cultures.
- Learn about a culture’s food. When it comes to ethnicities, different cultures put differing emphasis on mealtimes and, often, sharing meals is a way of connecting in a meaningful way.
Once you’ve explored a bit on your own, start seeking out different groups to connect with. Visit new places, even just within your community if it includes diverse populations. Travel beyond your immediate area if opportunities to connect with diverse populations are limited in your own locale.
Or at the very least, be open-minded about meeting and conversing with new people in your everyday experiences.
Once you set an intent to explore life in this way with a new lens, you can expect the universe to bring new people into your awareness.
If you have trouble striking up conversations, bring a more extroverted friend or partner along with you and simply enjoy the conversations that unfold.
Keep in Mind
When connecting with others from different backgrounds…
- Ensure that your attitude is one of respectful curiosity and not judgement.
- Be aware of your body language and posture so that it’s open and inviting – not standoffish. (This goes for your overall energy, as well.)
- Ask questions (respectfully) and LISTEN to others’ responses with an open mind…with an intent to learn, understand, and connect.
- Ask more questions, and allow the conversation to flourish, exploring deeper topics along the way.
Just remember – we are all unique, yet we are all connected. Truly, that’s what adds color, beauty, and intrigue to our lives.