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a collection of random thoughts and ideas from me, her, and sometimes us
what is a “diverse perspective?”
February 28, 2012Posted by on
As a volunteer for a structured organization, I serve on a lot of committees. On a conference call last night, I commented that someone could bring a “diverse perspective” to the group (as a new member). Immediately following, I was questioned why someone’s personal demographics were a part of my comments on that person. My retort: I did not mention demographics, simply that this individual could bring a unique set of skills and ideas to this group. This has made me do a lot of thinking though, and a little work on defining my word choice. Therefore, courtesy of http://www.dictionary.com:
di·verse [dih-vurs, dahy-, dahy-vurs]
- of a different kind, form, character, etc.; unlike: a wide range of diverse opinions.
- of various kinds or forms; multiform.
- a technique of depicting volumes and spatial relationships on a flat surface. Compare aerial perspective, linear perspective.
- a picture employing this technique, especially one in which it is prominent: an architect’s perspective of a house.
- a visible scene, especially one extending to a distance; vista: a perspective on the main axis of an estate.
- the state of existing in space before the eye: The elevations look all right, but the building’s composition is a failure in perspective.
- the state of one’s ideas, the facts known to one, etc., in having a meaningful interrelationship: You have to live here a few years to see local conditions in perspective.
Diverse is a dynamic word clearly noting “differing” and “different.” A word that we use to note the individual and what he/she offers. These days, it seems, the word is confused with “diversity.” Same root; same general meaning (the state of being different); but, so often used these days to reference demographics that it has seemingly become synonymous. In any group, it does not matter if you are pink or blue, tall or short, it matters what you bring to the table. Each person’s background adds to the sum of that person, and therefore the differing view they offer. This is not relative to demographics (or race) but to the breadth and depth of their experiences as a person and how they articulate those experiences when working in a group.
Perspective, to me, clearly falls in the category of “the state of one’s ideas, the facts known to one, etc.” I think every person who serves as a volunteer in this particular group brings a shared experience (as the group is about individuals who have something specific in common), but also their own, individual take on that experience. Every person, even participating in the same activity, will relay the facts and the impact of that activity on themselves differently.
Looking back on my written comments of the individual that we were discussing, I never noted the individual’s demographics, simply the conversation I had with that person and their overall demeanor. It never would have occurred to me to discuss a person based on demographics. To the other person, my comments seemed clearly pointed at that aspect. Makes one take pause and think about the diverse perspectives we all bring to the table, our individual foci, and what hits home for us individually. I felt a personal affront at the insinuation of my comment and I would venture to guess that the other person felt similarly about my original comment. How do we get to a place of not assuming and judging, but thinking the best of others?