Minimization

By Thomas Kochman - 01.29.2010

One process that we use in the last day of our week long diversity training asks people from different groups two questions. The first is, “What do you want people from other groups to know about you or your group that you think they don’t know, or don’t know well enough?” The second question asks, “Why is it important to you or your group that others know this about you.”

The goal of this exercise is to promote candor and empathy –two things in very short supply especially in the workplace—and to enable different kinds of conversations to happen between members of different groups than could have happened before.

When people hear things they haven’t heard before –difficulties other groups face at work, for example– they often minimize them, saying things like, “The same thing happened to me!” or, “I can’t believe you’re saying that,” or, “How many years have you been with the company?” This last statement was made by a white male reacting to a black woman talking about being overlooked for promotion because of race.

So what is minimization and why do we, as referees and monitors of the process call “foul”, when that occurs? Read more »