Inviting Diversity in Your Relationships

How diverse is your workforce, group of friends, and professional network? It is well documented that diverse workforces increase creativity and work performance and an open network, where you are the link between different clusters of people, is the number one predictor of career success.  However, many work environments, friend groups, and professional networks lack diversity.

For most people, this isn’t intentional. It’s human nature to gravitate toward people that are like you. It takes effort to cultivate diversity, but the benefits for you and others is well worth it. If you find yourself building relationships, hiring, or working with a homogenous group of people, now is a great time to put some effort into creating more diversity.  You can start with the five tips below:

1. Audit Your Network
Go to LinkedIn, or whichever social networking site you are most active, and visually examine your connections to get a sense of your network’s diversity. How diverse are your contacts in terms of race, gender, age, career, location, and industry? If you find the majority of your contacts went to the same schools, look like you, or are in your industry, it’s a good time to make a conscious effort to add diversity to your network. But it’s not just about your network’s appearance. It’s important to examine how diverse your relationships are as well. Who do you spend time with professionally? If you find yourself interacting with the same group of people all the time, reach out to people you know of different races, ethnicities, genders, or experience levels and begin building relationships.

2. Be Aware of Implicit Biases
Implicit biases are your unconscious attitudes or stereotypes that you hold about certain groups of people. We all have them, and new research shows that implicit bias may be rooted in humans’ propensity to label social groups and make unconscious associations. Unfortunately, unless you put checks in place to correct for your implicit bias, the odds of you noticing it when you are making decisions or building relationships is unlikely.

Because of how powerful our unconscious is (it is estimated that our unconscious influences 90% of our decision-making!), it is important to be aware of the types of biases you may have. Here are four examples of implicit bias that you should recognize and try to combat:

  • Affinity bias is a bias towards someone with similar experiences, interests, or attributes as you.
  • Racial bias is a bias towards certain races.
  • Gender bias is a bias towards a certain gender over another.
  • Confirmation bias is a bias towards finding information that validates your existing opinion or belief.

Recognizing biases and taking steps to correct them by connecting with people outside of your normal circle is a great step to diversifying your network and opening yourself up to new ideas and experiences.

3. Join New Groups
Look for opportunities to join meet-ups and professional groups that your colleagues or friends are not involved in. Make it a goal to speak to at least five people, who are distinctly different than you, — different industry, experience level, race, or gender — connect after the even, and begin building relationships.

4. Be in the Minority
If you’re typically in the majority in your social and professional circles, seek out opportunities to be in the minority and spend some time there. It will give you an opportunity to learn, empathize, and maybe experience a little discomfort that will serve you well in building relationships with people unlike yourself. Gaining this perspective will certainly be a valuable experience that will benefit your career and relationships!

5. Extend and Ask for Invitations
If you have a few diverse contacts, with whom you have relationships, be honest with them about wanting to add more diversity to your network and ask if they could make introductions or bring you to events with their contacts that you don’t know. Offer to do the same for them. You may be invited to dinners or t0 participate in groups, in which they wouldn’t receive an invitation. Offer to bring them with you, you’ll benefit yourself, your group, and your contacts by promoting diversity.

Diversifying your network can be easily accomplished if you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone and put in a little extra effort. The first step is wanting to increase diversity in your network and in your relationships. Your interest in this topic is a great start!

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