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  • New Year's Resolution: Make a Difference One Person at a Time!

    Lenora Billings-Harris, New Year's Resolution: Make a Difference One Person at a Time!

    Internationally Recognized Speaker, Performance Improvement Consultant, and Author

    How can we successfully work with people different from ourselves? How can we learn to respect each other with more than a veneer of politeness? In today’s multicultural world filled with polarized values, the task may seem insurmountable. Many just give up and assume one person cannot really make a difference anyway. I believe each of us, individually, can make a tremendous difference toward building a human culture of understanding and respect.

    No major social change has ever occurred because the masses, all of a sudden, decided a particular change was a good thing to do. Consider the works of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Jesus, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, and others. Each of them was able to move beyond biases and self doubt in order to cause major changes. You, too, in your own way, can have a positive impact on people of difference in your community, your workplace and beyond, if you decide to take personal action.

    This journey of creating a workplace and community of understanding and respect requires an understanding of three factors, each of which operates subconsciously.  We already possess all three. We just have to activate them.

    The first factor—The Protector—represents our mask or façade. We use it when we most want to be accepted. It tells us to act this way or that, depending on what will be accepted by those around us. The wizard in story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is perfect example of someone wearing several masks to fit in. Some people, such as many in the LGBT community, are forced to wear this mask, even when they would rather not.

    What masks are you wearing? What will it take to have the courage to reveal your true self? Are you hiding your ethnicity, your faith, your ideas?

    The second factor is The JudgeThis factor motivates us to believe we are right. This is the most dangerous of the three because most people rarely examine the internal messages here. They therefore act without thought. Our biases, stereotypes, and prejudices reside here. Unexam­ined, these internal messages affect how we treat others, and what we believe about others. Our motivation at this level is to be right, regardless of the facts. Do you know someone who must be right all the time? It is always easier to blame than to find working resolutions.

    The third factor is The AuthenticatorOur motivation when here is just “to be ourselves”. Unfortunately, as adults we are not at this level much because we are so busy judging (Judge) or worrying about being judged (Mask). At this level we are willing to accept others without regard to their packaging. Here we evaluate situations and people based on facts, instead of relying on stereotypes. This is the factor that helps us value the diversity of people without judging them.

    You can make a difference by valuing yourself, respecting others and making a commitment to create an environment where everyone can reach their highest potential.

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