Can any organization bring its people to feel a sameness, a oneness, while at the same time promoting duality (them vs. us) by elevating differences? Can we individually focus on being at one professionally if the specter of duality is a constant feature of the environment in which we’re expected to produce our best results? How do we fend off the linguistics of “againstness” inherent in the language of Diversity, personally, professionally, organizationally?
Remember what your mother told you? She was right. “Watch your language!”
Awareness of our own word choices is the first step. Change the dialogue, both internal and external, by changing your language to that which infuses power, not drains it. Next is to actively avoid encouraging others to impose upon you or your organization the “negative otherness” of the special brand of differences embedded in the language of Diversity.
As I considered how to do this, from the recesses of my mind I began to hear Fred Rogers quietly saying to me, “You Are Special!” The more I thought about it, the louder the voice became. I actually turned around to look behind me, and there on the bookshelf was Mr. Rogers. His universally trusted face peered out from the cover of his book entitled, “You Are Special!” It called to mind what Mr. Rogers had been telling me since childhood, that everyone is special…and I had believed him.
So I darted back to the Visual Thesaurus and keyed in the word to see if “different” was a synonym for “special.”
Nope. Exceptional, extraordinary, extra, especial…but not “different.” There was also a distant connection to “peculiar.” So I clicked up that word to a secondary ring of synonyms for peculiar. Particular, curious, funny, odd, queer, singular, unusual…not so bad…but I decided to stop there. I could foresee where that was heading at level three. As it was with the word “different,” one level away was far enough. I decided to turn back the other way. I’d rather be like Wilbur the Pig in Charlotte’s Web, special, radiant, versatile….some person!
I’ve recovered my dignity and positivity, thanks to Mr. Rogers. We can all call up the mental picture of Mr. Rogers and say along with him…You Are Special!
That’s productive language. That’s creative application. By keeping the terminology neutral, that makes me the same as everyone else, just as Mr. Rogers told me…YOU are special…as are all of us. When everyone is special, no one will be different.
Aren’t you glad that Mr. Rogers wasn’t a Diversity Consultant?
Start considering and researching what other terms and phrases used in the language of “Diversity” belie their declared and expressed intent. Share them with us, along with your thoughts on how the terms have affected you. Remember what Fred Rogers said:
“I have always given a great deal of thought to how I present ideas during our television visits, and I’m always fascinated to hear how people have used what we have said. Often they’ve used these ideas in creative, productive ways I had never dreamed they could be used. So may it be with the words in this book…may they find their place in the innermost part of you—in that essential part of you that inspires you to be who you are.” (Fed Rogers, “You Are Special, Words of Wisdom from America’s Most Beloved Neighbor”, Viking Press)
Let’s wrap this up in PART 7.
© Copyright 2013 – Robert D. Jones – All Rights Reserved
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