Diversity has often been described as both the beauty and the test of human civilization. By fostering inclusion, we can celebrate the uniqueness of every person and create a more beautiful workplace, community, and world. Inclusion will create unity and give everyone a voice. Inclusion begins as we Recognize, Respect, and Reconcile differences. We call this process the 3Rs Framework. As the second of three articles in a short series, this article focuses on the second R: Respect.
Respect, the second dimension of the 3Rs framework, means learning how to adapt our own views to welcome, include, and embrace the views of others. Simply put, the first R, Recognition, is noticing and understanding diversity while the second R, Respect, is seeing the beauty of diversity.
Through the recognition phase of the 3Rs framework, we gain greater intellectual knowledge of the differences that exist between ourselves and others. We use this knowledge to develop respect and appreciation for those differences. This is called decentering. To decenter is to use our knowledge to adapt our own behavior and thinking. It is to stand back from our own views and norms to consider why other people do what they do and identify the reasons behind the behaviors that we observe. This may sound similar to the recognition phase, but instead of intellectual growth, the respect phase is about behavioral growth. We have to walk a mile in their shoes, so to speak. Once we understand the underlying context, we will be able to better adapt to and then embrace different norms and customs.
Imagine you grew up in a large metropolitan area and recently moved to a suburb. In contrast, your neighbor grew up on a farm in a rural community. It seems like every weekend they are waking you up at 7 a.m. by working on some project or another, like landscaping, building an addition to their house, or tinkering with their car. You don’t see the point. They have enough money to hire someone to do this kind of labor, so why not just use the weekend to relax?
Using the decenter process, you can find the value here. First you have to step out of the metropolitan mindset and into the rural one. Your neighbor grew up on a farm, so there is a good chance they have been doing this kind of labor since they were very young. Self-reliance is an ingrained feature in rural cultures because it is required: if the mechanic lives two hours away, you’ll likely learn to do a few things yourself. Farm life also requires learning many practical skills, including basic mechanics, landscaping, and construction. Finally, rural communities tend to not have as much wealth as do metro areas, so frugality is important. Many would balk at the idea of paying someone for what you can do yourself. Can you see the benefit of self-reliance, practical skills, and frugality? Now that we have spent a moment in their mind and examined the why behind their behavior, we are ready to recenter.
After we decenter, we then have to recenter. Recentering is finding or creating common ground between our way of acting and new, unfamiliar methods, actions, and ideas. In this process, we need to identify the situation and adjust our thinking and behavior to it, rather than defaulting to our personal conditioning. This adaptation doesn’t mean we have to agree with the differences, but it does mean we can adjust to, and respect, the situation.
For example, team meetings vary remarkably in purpose around the world. In the United States, employees analyze information and make decisions together. In Korea, team meetings are often held to publicly confirm decisions that were made in intensive sessions by smaller groups. Team meetings in the Netherlands are often used as a tool to discuss the weakness of a particular plan. And in Mexico, meetings are used to develop trust and build relationships.
When a person accustomed to one style of meetings participates in a meeting of a different style, the individual could struggle to feel comfortable and might question the methods used to accomplish the goals of that meeting. That’s why the decenter and recenter process of the respect phase is so important. Someone who decenters will want to understand why people with different backgrounds hold meetings the way they do. In the United States, the perception is that team meetings create efficient plans because ideas are presented and openly debated. Koreans use small groups to make plans, and the larger group to confirm so that team members avoid the embarrassment of presenting a bad idea to the whole group. In the Netherlands, where hierarchies are relatively flat, team meetings are a place for employees at all levels to participate and discuss the vision of a project as equal contributors. Last, the trust built in Mexican meetings is used to streamline future decision-making.
Respect enhances our relationships by eliminating the tension inherent in differing cultures. Recentering gives us the knowledge that people with diverse backgrounds bring experience and ideas that are successful and valuable, even if they feel unfamiliar or uncomfortable to us at first. When friends, neighbors, and colleagues of different cultures see that their opinion is valued, they become free to bring everything they have to the table. This is how we can bring out the true power of diversity—this is what respect is all about.
Remember that diversity and inclusion and the 3Rs framework are all about individuals. Respect is about combating the inherent biases that arise from focusing solely on our own cultural norms. We develop respect by practicing the decenter-recenter technique and seeing the value that people with different backgrounds and experiences offer the world. What a boring life it would be if our neighbors didn’t occasionally wake us up—at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning, hammering away at their most recent home improvement project! Next time that hammer turns into your alarm clock, try the decenter-recenter technique. You may realize that there are a few projects that you’ve been meaning to get to, and your hammer-happy neighbor may be willing to help. How meaningless life would be if we refused to learn from one another?
Respect gives us the ability to welcome, include, and embrace others who look, sound, think, and believe differently than we do. Without it, we cannot create the fellowship necessary for our homes, communities, or workplaces to thrive.
The respect phase of the 3Rs framework follows recognition, and is incomplete without reconciliation. Learn more about recognition and reconciliation. Use our BUILD Global Leadership Assessment here to learn about cultural intelligence.