There are nearly 8 billion people — and no two are exactly alike! People have unique shapes, sizes, and colors. They also come with their own ideas and talents. All these differences make our world a diverse and interesting place. And learning to appreciate them can make your own life brighter too.
Respecting diversity is a key part of social and emotional learning (SEL). Jonathan Jenkins is a psychologist in Massachusetts. He said getting to know different people can “broaden our understanding of life, love, and connectedness.” Jenkins said part of this could be “discovering new foods, new music, or new fashion.” But it goes much further too. Accepting diversity makes “neighborhoods, schools, and sports fields more welcoming,” Jenkins explained.
Diversity can take many forms. People may be different races or ages. They may also have disabilities that make it harder to learn or move. Katy Fattaleh is a leader with The Nora Project. That group teaches students that disability is part of human diversity. “Disability isn’t sad or scary,” Fattaleh told News-O-Matic. “In fact, 1 in 5 people have a disability.” The Nora Project shows students that they can be friends with those who have disabilities.
There are many ways you can welcome diversity too. Jenkins and Fattaleh shared some tips!
Listen to the Stories
“Celebrating and respecting diversity starts with listening,” Jenkins said. This is how you learn about the lives of others. The expert explained that it’s important for people to “tell their own life stories without fear of ridicule.”
Fattaleh added that you can tell about your life too. “When we share our stories, other people get to know and understand us,” she said. “They’re better able to show empathy.” Empathy is a key skill. It’s the ability to share the feelings of another person — even if you don’t have the same experiences.
Spend Quality Time Together
Try getting to know people who don’t seem the same as you. “It helps bring to light our beautiful differences,” Jenkins said. He added, “Spending time with someone also allows us to recognize the ways we are similar.”
“Empathy is not just feeling with another person,” Fattaleh said. “It’s taking action to support that person.” Helping people can make your community better for everyone.
You can also speak up if you see someone being treated unfairly. People across the United States and the world have been doing this. Protesters are calling for equality and an end to violence against Black people.
Talk to Someone
Inequality and racism have been in the news a lot. And it’s OK if these make you feel worried, scared, or any other way. Talking to someone can help. “Bringing up this topic can be tough,” Jenkins shared. “But if you are interested in learning more, you are already moving in the right direction.” He suggested finding a good role model. “Seek out people that you respect and trust,” Jenkins added.
Have an Ability Inclusive Mindset
Fattaleh said her top tip is to have an Ability Inclusive Mindset (AIM). That’s a set of ideas and actions to be “truly inclusive of all people,” she explained. The Nora Project shared three behaviors for this:
1. Empathy: Imagine how others feel, and try to support them.
2. Planning: Make sure everyone can take part in an activity.
3. Risk-taking: Put yourself out there to get new experiences and meet new people.
This can give you a new view of diversity!
Updated August 20, 2020, 5:02 P.M. (ET)
By Ashley Morgan