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Robert Hayles Opinion Column: What Can I Do?

11 Feb 2019 5:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

If you do not want world peace skip this article.  If you do, read it.


Great thinkers and writers have said things like: peace is every step (Thick Nhat Hanh); and be the change you wish to see (Gandhi).  To convert that wisdom into action requires help from “others”.  This means effective alliances with foundations built on phrases like:  many feathers one bird; many patches one quilt; many cultures one world; and the power of many… the spirit of one.  Getting help means asking, accepting, respecting, and valuing the helpers.  Being willing to give help can also be beneficial. What does this have to do with SIETAR USA and world peace?

            We can contribute to world peace in many ways. Start with mindsets consistent with the above paragraph. Form alliances beginning with those closest and most similar to us (e.g., family, friends and colleagues) and then expanding the circle as far as our hearts and minds can stretch (e.g., Israeli and Palestinian, right to life and right to choose).  Every time we reach out beyond ourselves we expand the potential for world peace.  SIETAR started by trying to create an alliance among educators, trainers, and researchers.  We also tried to ally with professionals under umbrellas like multicultural, cross cultural, diversity, inclusion, equity, anthropology, speech communication, and more.  We are still trying.  One barrier to success might be our difficulty in finding sufficient similarities.  A few suggestions regarding how to do this are noted below.

1.     Catalog the things we have in common with other professionals who use different self-descriptive labels than we do.

2.    Appreciatively ask questions about how they contribute to world peace and listen to understand without judging.

3.    Question whether others do it better, worse, or just differently from the way we do.  Withhold judgment until first thoroughly understanding.

Let’s walk through one example using the three questions above as we explore intercultural communication and diversity/inclusion/equity.

A sample of characteristics both arenas share follows:

a.     Seeking better communication and understanding among and between individuals and groups that are different (in a wide variety of ways)

b.     Striving to understand and then reduce conflict followed by working to increase harmony and peace (ranging from tolerance to valuing)

c.     Attempting to make perceptions more accurate and reality-based

d.    Having educational, training, and research components

e.    Having evidence-based techniques or methods that are unfortunately not universally adopted

f.     Using cognitive, affective, and behavioral (head, heart and hand) methods to facilitate healthy growth and change

g.    Guided by theoretical and conceptual models which describe the path of improvement (e.g. Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity, and Multicultural Organizational Development)

h.    Addressing context that extends beyond the individual to include group, organization, society, nation, and world

i.      Focusing on both specific identities and general principles

j.      Addressing awareness focused first on self and then on others

k.    Are multi-disciplinary and intersectional

l.      Seeing differences between individuals and groups as real.

m.  Addressing both stereotypes and generalizations.

n.    Seeking order without having a great deal of control.

o.    Consistent with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

p.    Aligning with:  Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (United Nations)

Differences do exist and are intentionally not emphasized in this column.

A sample of how both arenas contribute to world peace:

            The diversity/inclusion/equity arena contributes by seeking to reduce prejudice, bias, discrimination, oppression, inequality, and the like.  Many different identity groups are addressed. Justice (corrective, remedial, restorative, and social) is also sought.  There is often comfort with protests, political and social actions, as well as addressing/confronting anger and hate. Facilitating individual and organizational change is a common skill.

            The intercultural communication arena contributes by addressing communication between, across, and among different cultures (culture often very broadly defined). The art of specifying and addressing cultural dimensions is well developed. Differences are viewed non-judgmentally and diagnosed using input from many disciplines.  There is comfort with different languages, values, and ways of being in the world. Words like “bridge” and “translate” are used frequently.

      While professionals from both of the above arenas occasionally meet in common venues and contribute selectively across both arenas, there is much more to share and learn in this budding alliance.  A small minority of professionals work successfully in both spheres. 

Does the “other” arena make its contributions in better, worse, or simply different ways?   

While judging after achieving a deep and thorough understanding is sometimes worthwhile, we have more work to do in order to achieve such understanding.  Therefore the question will not be answered at this time.  Further dialogue and mutual sharing are required. 

Closing thoughts:  

            In the words of Dr. R. Roosevelt Thomas, “differences should distinguish, not divide”. 


Dr. Robert Hayles
Long-term SIETAR member

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