Three Takeaways from PAF Diversity Training

March 29, 2016

Michael Tapscott, Director of the Multicultural Student Services Center, led a diversity training for the current fellows during the weekly meeting on Tuesday, February 23 to help us build cultural competence, push our boundaries, and check our assumptions. He not only helped current fellows hone skills in communicating with diverse communities in a respectful way, but he also provided us with tools to address biases and bigotry. Below, I’ve highlighted three major takeaways from the session that apply in any workplace.

#1 Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Thinking first to understand, then to be understood, is a key to effective communication. Oftentimes, we deliver a message assuming the other party will receive it in the way we intended. However, a variety of beliefs, assumptions, circumstances, and experiences exist between the sender and the receiver of a message that determine the real meaning.

#2 Silence is not a Strategy

In the book, Crucial Conversations, which the PAFs discussed earlier in the year during a session facilitated by Professional Development Advisor Sara Melita and Faculty Advisor Kathy Newcomer, the authors emphasize that neither silence nor violence are appropriate responses to difficult conversations. Staying silent and withdrawing when something makes you uncomfortable in the workplace can be just as damaging as verbally attacking the person who upset you. Staying silent on an issue can prevent progress, and cause one to continue feeling uncomfortable, isolated, and disrespected.

#3 Give People the Opportunity to Retain Their Dignity

Many people are not always aware of their own assumptions and biases. Oftentimes, giving them the opportunity to explain themselves and check their assumptions, helps them realize they made mistake. One way to give someone the opportunity to reclaim his or her dignity is to ask a simple question, “Why would you say that?” Asking someone this question allows for the opportunity to check unconscious, or conscious, bias that led to the comment


What situations have you confronted at work where one or more of these strategies could be useful?


Overall, the first step to navigating diversity in the workplace is respect, whether it’s pronouncing someone’s name correctly or not interrupting someone when they speak. But remember, respect looks different for everyone, and it’s important to be proactive in communicating how you want to be respected and learning how to respect others.

Mr. Tapscott reminded us not to take differences for granted. Diverse teams are more creative, better problem-solvers, and have a plethora of other benefits. However, those benefits cannot come to fruition in environments clogged with bias. Everyone on the team or in the office has the responsibility set the right tone around diversity.

Ashlynn Profit

PAF Class of 2016
BA '14
MPA '16