Isaura Barrera and Lucinda Kramer, authors of Skilled Dialogue: Authentic Communication and Collaboration Across Diverse Perspectives, identified four beliefs associated with people who respond to others’ differences in ways that foster productive communication:

1. Differences simply make people different.

2. Individuals’ views and beliefs are evidence-based.

3. Diversity of views and beliefs adds to existing options and resources.

4. Differences are complementary.

These successful communicators both acknowledge the differences and make connections with others “in ways that bring out what they hold in common as well as what is unique about each.”

The following discussion is a helpful tool for learning about how you respond to differences in others, and for preparing you to successfully communicate and collaborate with diverse others.

Discussion Questions/Activities

1. Make a list of words you associate with differences (e.g., exciting, troublesome). What can you conclude about your perception of differences based on this list?

2. What types of differences do you find positive (e.g., being talented)? What types of differences do you find negative (e.g., lack of punctuality)? Can you find a common theme to each group?

3. What are some important aspects of your sense of self? Find at least one other person to discuss the similarities and differences between their sense of self and yours.

4. List at least three things that you assume everyone knows are necessary to successful communicating and collaborating. Reality check this list with at least three other people with whom you have collaborated: ask them if they agree or disagree.

Isaura Barrera, Lucinda Kramer in Skilled Dialogue