One can reasonably argue that the opposite of love is not hatred, it is fear. Hatred actually focuses on the other person, even if negatively. Fear, however, is a prehistorically ingrained visceral reaction intended solely for self-protection. When it comes to abject fear, the other person doesn’t matter at all. All that is important is survival of the self.
A line from a popular song of recent years sums it up, “Just so scared all the time, it makes me one more reason why the world’s dangerous.”
Civil rights activists have known for years that the cure for discrimination is integration. The more we get to know one another, the more we enjoy one another.
So, what can leaders — in business or elsewhere in life — do to increase appreciation of our differences?
Draw a clear line
Make sure that workplace rules are specific, shared and understood. These parameters create a common foundation by which acceptable and unacceptable behaviors can be identified, articulated and discussed.
This commonality contributes to the organizational culture and allows each employee equal opportunity to become a full-fledged member of the organization, irrespective of his or her differences.
Help employees to understand each other
Regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or faith, probably the single largest pool of diversity comes from the wide array of personalities displayed in any organization.
The more we can demonstrate the contributions that come as a result of a variety of perspectives, talents and temperaments, the more at ease our associates and employees can become with differences.
Lead by example
Make the commitment — and the time — to reach out to colleagues, associates and employees who think differently than you do, who look or live differently than you. Invest some thought into how you might get more involved in whatever part of the community you feel most removed from.
The 2015 Urban Institute study on the plight of African-American men in southwestern Pennsylvania/Pittsburgh found geographical and social isolation to be critical factors in the suppression of educational and economic achievement.
Going out of your way to create connectedness is a tangible, highly effective means of combatting isolation, disparity and the fear born of such separateness.
As a commitment to the memory of those who lost their lives at the Tree of Life Synagogue, let’s pledge this year to work together to calm fear, especially fear of differences. Our differences are to be appreciated and respected. We are brilliant in our variety.
Esther L. Bush is the president and CEO of Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh. Esther has established herself as a voice of reason, a coalition builder and a force for positive change in the Greater Pittsburgh community and throughout the U.S. Under her leadership, the Pittsburgh Urban League has ranked as one of the nation’s top-performing affiliates for more than a decade.