Beliefs Belonging Courage Diversity of Thought Thinking

Stop glorifying sameness

Many people glorify sameness because what’s not the same makes them uncomfortable.

Yes, diversity is improving.

Yes, inclusion is improving.

And also, the optics are improving.

What I mean with optics is that when I listen to (predominantly white, middle-aged, male) managers, it still sounds to me that they’re becoming more diverse and inclusive because they have to.

Because they’re forced by government regulations, public opinion, by younger generations, by the times that are changing.

Not because they understand the reasoning behind it.

Let’s be honest here.

Many people, not just white middle-aged men, are still more comfortable with sameness around them. They prefer the comfortable feeling of people who they think are like them.

They glorify sameness because what’s not the same makes them very uncomfortable.

My favorite example is United States citizens traveling abroad for the first time.

Note. I know some of my readers are from the United States. But I also know they have a passport, are seasoned travelers, enjoy different cultures, and are curious.

Many US citizens traveling abroad for the first time are visibly uncomfortable when you spend time with them.

Outside the US, space is smaller, ice cubes in water are missing, airco is not existing or off, people speak funny English, the measurement system is metric and logical, and my favorite ‘Dutch’ one, we put mayonnaise on our fries and not on our sandwich.

I once sat on a plane to the US with a returning tourist next to me, and the above reasons were almost literally the ones he was using to explain why he was happy to go home.

For the record, I still struggle with the airco temperature and the ice cubes when traveling to the US. And I lived there for four years.

If you lost track of my story, I’m writing to highlight that people prefer sameness.

Not just when they’re traveling but more so when they’re at work.

We often unconsciously look for people who look like us, talk like us, behave like us, and think like us.

The board rooms in the Netherlands, but probably also in other countries, still look like this:

  • Born in the country you work in.
  • At least one higher-educated or well-off parent.
  • Male. White. Hetero sexual.
  • Higher education (high school, college, university).

And that is such a one-dimensional way of approaching the challenges of this world.

It’s time that we celebrate our differences and create equality when we’re in meetings together.

It originates from the intention to build a culture where diversity of thought is the most important quality we seek in our collective self.

Equality in our meetings does not come from our looks or backgrounds. 

It results from the fact that we demonstrate respect for each other’s thinking and ideas. 

It results from giving everyone in the meeting equal and ample opportunity to think for themselves and speak their mind.

It’s built on the quality of listening, not interrupting, stimulating debate and conflict, being comfortable with silence, asking great questions, and the ability to see and consider different perspectives.

And if, or perhaps when, we all would embrace the above as the culture we aspire to be, we soon find that we’re more diverse and inclusive than ever.

Because we look for people who are different and embrace equality.

That’s our challenge.

Your turn: Same or Different? 

Do more of what makes you happy!


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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