Embracing diversity: stepping out of your comfort zone

By Eleonore Verfaillie

Whoever you are, you’re experiencing diversity every day, and quite often, it’s a challenge.

Do you ever get frustrated with older people in line at the grocery store?

Do you feel uncomfortable when an autistic child is around?

Did you give up talking to a co-worker who will not embrace digital?

Did you unfriend a family member because of their political posts?

Most of the time, others are different…and frustrating! But sometimes we’re the ones who are different. One day, you’ll be the one standing out, feeling out of place and trying to get her voice heard. Maybe you’ll find yourself in a place where you don’t speak the native language. Maybe you’ll be the only creative mind in the room, or the only woman sitting on a board. Maybe you will be the only parent of a child with special needs at a party.

If you ever have an experience of that kind, I urge you to cherish it. It will keep your mind, heart and soul open.

Diversity is not comfy. I know I haven’t been comfy in a long time.

We tend to keep with the same kind of people, the same familiar places, habits and processes because it’s comfortable. As human beings, we like certitude; we need to know what is dangerous, and what is good for us. We make quick judgments, and it leads us to label things – and people.  We keep to what we know because we think it’s safe.

But we’re missing out.

Of course, it would be easier just to have this meeting without the people from the other department. In the society in which we live, it’s easy to avoid the people who have different skin color, social backgrounds, values and lifestyles. But you won’t have their input, and chances are they have good ideas.

Creativity doesn’t care about labels and borders. The old, grumpy accountant could be the one who knows exactly which niche media could help get the word out. The silly over-contoured reception girl might help you master Snapchat. Our industry (and lives) craves fresh new ideas and perspectives. Let’s start by not shutting “others” out.

Every time you avoid someone, you will miss an opportunity to hear their story, to understand their feelings and needs. As communication professionals we need all the insight we can get. We must have a deep understanding of the world around us so we can be relevant and efficient. The world is changing faster than ever, and you have to keep up with it. A good way to do so is to practice empathy in our everyday life, and welcome diversity.

Eleonore Verfaillie is founder of Empathy Communication Consulting, a small communication agency dedicated to helping brands of all sizes thrive in a globally connected world.  For more than ten years, Eleonore has worked for global brands in both France and the United States, including l’Oreal, Danone, Nestle and Bayer.  She’s excited to bring her expertise to help smaller companies with their online presence, including websites and blogs, content marketing, social media, ads and more. Eleonore is also a member of the Public Relations Council of Alabama, Mobile Chapter’s Diversity Task Force.


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