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Well Intentioned But Still...

21 May 2015

Well Intentioned but Still…

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I attended a conflict resolution training today. The trainer was an excellent trainer, nice guy, and I learned a few training techniques from him. He was personable, knowledgeable and engaging. About half way through the training, he was trying to make a point and said this:

“To work with these personality types you have to cater to them. Remember if you have too many chiefs and not enough?” “Indians!” replied the room. An uneasy feeling overwhelmed me, but I quickly reminded myself of my diversity training about context, intent and impact.

Several months ago, I conducted a cultural communication training in which I made a reference to Pat and Vanna from Wheel of Fortune. A few participants viewed my comments as sexist, and they shut down. They so offended and focused on my comment that they did not pay attention to my other comments on context, intent, and impact. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to apologize or explain my intent. I learned about their grievance from a trusted colleague.

We are emotional creatures and tend to gravitate to the familiar and feel-good type of situations, engaging in differences and conflict is a learned skill. Here are my R tactics to engage with people who are well intentioned but unknowingly made racial, sexist, offensive jokes/statements:

  1. Reflect on what you heard: words, tone and the context in which you heard it. Understanding their intentions is vital so that you do not attack them unjustly.
  1. Rapport: build a relationship with that person. Even if it is someone whom you briefly met, you can develop a connection with small talk.
  1. Re-state: I heard you say this, what did you mean by it?
  1. Re-education: Do you know where that statement comes from? You may not be aware of this, but what you said is viewed as being very offensive because of __.”
  1. Re-affirm: I don’t think you meant to offend anyone, but I wanted to give you that feedback. And I’m glad you were open to hearing it. I appreciate your time. Thanks.

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