Thursday, September 30, 2010

More on Tolerance - The Rewards of Diversity

Tolerance isn’t always so easy. Humanity is diverse. When you think of all the ways a person can be different—personality, culture, education, life experience, religion, economic status, skills, knowledge, values, attitudes, interests, relationships—it seems obvious that no two people on the planet are alike, and some people can be radically different from you. When someone doesn’t think like you or act like you, it can be hard to communicate and connect. The other person will do things that surprise you and even shock you. You’ll find that you disagree about a lot of things. It could be hard to like or respect such a person. You’d probably rather spend time with someone more like you.

Years ago I used to consult with a group of trainers. I had expertise in the area of creative problem solving, and they were teaching a week-long course on that topic. From time to time I would go to their facility to help them with their program.

It was always strange because all five people in that group were unlike me in the same way. Each of them was creative, spontaneous, playful, outgoing and values-directed. They had wonderful charisma, a great asset for presenting training. I, on the other hand, am logical, intellectual, serious, realistic, and goal-directed. For them, each day was a kind of party, and it was a stretch for me to fit in with that group. They valued my participation because I evaluated their program, got things organized and kept them on schedule. I also taught the sessions on decision-making, a topic they didn’t enjoy.

In short, we tolerated, valued and made use of our differences. But I often thought it would be wise if they hired team members with more diversity, instead of favoring people so much like themselves, with whom they connected so magically.

I think the lesson of tolerance goes something like this. Most people aren’t like you at all. That’s the good news, not the bad news. It’s good news because you are not all things. You have your strengths, but you aren’t strong in all areas. You know a lot, but you certainly don’t know everything. You have your focus and your individuality. And you want to be appreciated and valued for that. You want your talents to be well used.

People who aren’t like you feel the same way. They have a lot to contribute, and you can be the beneficiary if you do two hard things.

One, get acquainted with these people. Hire them. Learn how to team with them. Spend more time with them, even though it would be easier and less of a challenge to hang out with your own kind.

Two, tolerate them. Actually, go beyond toleration. As you learn more about them, appreciate their good and strong qualities. Value them. Affirm them. Make use of them. It will be a stretch, but making your life experience more diverse will enrich you and complete you.

More on Tolerance...

"Tolerance - The Key to a More Complete Life"

"Saved Again by Humility, Tolerance and Forgiveness"

"Black Holes - We Create Order out of Chaos"

"The Personal Strength of Tolerance - The Over-the-Top Extravert"

A Fortune Cookie...

Welcome all the many colors, and your world will be a work of art.

The story behind the Fortune Cookies...

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength . (License to use photo purchased from

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