Tackling Tough Topics
As part of the human condition, we all have bias, prejudice, stereotype data, and reactions to differences (even perceived differences). Two of the most challenging differences we encounter and the ones we have the most difficulty talking about are religion and politics. Diversity management involves understanding both differences and similarities among people. We simply acknowledge differences, but we embrace similarities. Our ability to work effectively and productively with others depends largely on how well we can navigate differences and identify similarities so that we feel comfortable and natural with our team members. It is the “labels” we associate with others that raise the specter of differences.
From Experience to Worldview
The importance of comfortable conversations about politics and religion is that these two dimensions of cognitive diversity dictate our life experiences and inform our worldview (perspective, interpretation, heuristics, predictive models). We can never fully get to know another person without an understanding of the things that influence what they believe to be true in the world. Unfortunately, a lot of that information comes in the form of assumptions based on labels. When someone identifies as Democrat or Republican, we assume we know what they believe and what positions they hold on key topics. Likewise, we assume we know what a person believes based on the religious (spiritual) label they carry. Is it possible that an inherited faith tradition does not fully explain a person’s worldview?
Beyond the Label
Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, and Scientologist are some familiar labels used to describe a person’s belief system. Rather than apply these labels and assume we know what it means for that person, it might be more useful to simply ask, “What do you believe?” (about life, the existence of gods, the nature of gods, good and evil, love, peace, practice, meditation, prayer, etc.) The answer to that question will inform you more about a person than the assumptions that come with a religious label.
The Journey of Epiphany
As a means of opening up a different type of conversation regarding elements of cognitive diversity, Epiphany: Finding truth without losing faith explores the faith journey and beliefs of one person in hope that every reader will explore their own journey and confirm what they believe as a result. That will make it easier to determine what we have in common with others because there are a few universal principles embraced by all belief systems and faith traditions. Identifying those principles and our mutual adherence to them provides a basis for embracing the similarities we have with other people. It is not eliminating the natural human tendency for “Us versus Them” thinking. Instead, it is a way to expand the definition of “Us”.