A few years ago I was with a group of women socializing after work, and we were talking about experiences of going camping growing up. Each shared her memories, and then turned to me for ‘my turn.’ All I could think of was “We’re Jewish. We don’t camp.”
Such was the reaction today during a workshop I led on Networking and Diversity for the Jewish Executive Network in Chicago. We were doing an exercise on Dimensions of Diversity, to help get out of the ‘black/white’ paradigm and embrace multiple dimensions of diversity to help illuminate opportunities for connection to people who, on the ‘surface,’ might appear different.
Birth order, time management styles, dominant learning styles…and daring. Go to this corner of the room if you’ve ever been skydiving, this corner if you haven’t but would like to, and this corner if you couldn’t be paid enough money to go sky diving! And thus within our ‘homogenous’ group of Jewish professionals, we discovered the one brave soul, Steve, who indeed, had been sky diving.
The point, as relates to intercultural communciations, is that we never know what we might have in common with others to serve as the basis for communication and networking. For this group, the objective was to network to find a new career opportunity. The point of the workshop was to make sure that individuals were not inadvertantly closing off contacts with preconceived ideas of who might or might not help them (based on racial/cultural identity, position, or other superficial indicators).
The outcome was a fun way to explode the idea of diversity into multiple dimensions, creating exponential opportunities to connect.
Have you ever found something unusual in common with someone very different, that surprised you? What was it? How did you discover your connection?
photo by Darren Johnson