Diversity Spectrum

Diversity Spectrum

The diversity spectrum embraces the unique blending of our essential natures, the life we’ve lived, the cultures that we’re connected to, the effects of trauma on how we adapt and relate, the real skills we’re developing, and what matters most to us.

We all exist on a multitude of spectrums. We are the same human species, yet we are not “the same.” Ever. When recognized and treated with respect and curiosity, our diversity is an immense advantage for co-creating.

  • Freed from the Magical Misconception that others “should” have the same values and ways of approaching and processing life (in every respect), we can better accept ourselves and benefit from the diversity that is us.
  • Whether loving, parenting, working with, or hearing another person’s perspective, keeping awareness of our diversity and theirs can help us avoid “othering” and seeing the world as black and white when it is indeed multicolored and multicultural.
  • Safety and respect are easier when we know that we could not survive (much less thrive) without diversity of interests, desires, skills, and perceptions.

What Color is That Yellow Schoolbus?

It’s yellow, of course!

Isn’t it?!?!

Actually no. It is in the US and Canada a color called National School Bus Glossy Yellow. It is not the primary color yellow. It is on the spectrum between yellow and orange. It’s close enough that we could have called the color Mango!

On your computer or TV screen, however, which uses red-green-blue (RGB) the school bus is 100% red, 84.71% green, and 0% blue. Does this mess with your mind a bit? We hope so.

Because we humans tend to create simplistic labels like “yellow” that cover a broad range of tones. Same with red. Same with people.

The Mac Book Pro display can show over 1 billion colors. How many of those would you see as “yellow” or “yellow-ish?”

If a computer screen can show that many diverse colors, far beyond what we could meaningfully label or discern, what about humans made up of over 37 trillion cells, each capable of a range of vibrations, combinations, and variations?

Our emotional energy and our thought field are capable of extraordinary range and diversity across a spectrum we have difficulty grasping. It’s why there are parts of our primitive brain that create shortcuts – labels – to help us put people into discrete (and unhelpfully rigid) buckets.

Friend or Foe? It’s useful to our primitive brain for survival. For thriving… not so much.

We could argue about whether the school bus is REALLY yellow or not… and both be right. When we embrace the diversity spectrum, more and more of human belief, thought, and behavior can be held with nuance and artistry so we can all have more freedom and inclusion while respecting our desire for safety, survival, and clarity, too.

Neurodiversity and Super Powers

How we individually process the world covers a broad range. Yet, in a holdover from the industrial age we expect (even demand) that individuals be forced into behaviors that do not fit the way their brain works! It’s traumatizing and dysregulating to need silence and be surrounded by noise. Or, to be punished for not sitting still when physical stimulation (stims) help to focus.

People on the autistic spectrum are helping many of us to appreciate the strengths that come with their neurodiversity – especially if allowed more freedom to craft the environment to be compatible with how their learn and create.

In this, many of us are discovering that while we might or might not fall into some arbitrary range considered as being on the autistic spectrum, we too have gifts that are suppressed in certain environments and can become superpowers if properly cultivated.

To thrive with our sensitivities and ways we are not “typical” benefits from “Know Thyself.” But we don’t consider that “enough.”

If a person knows themselves to need more solitude, quiet, space to reflect, and freedom to follow their own intuition (even if not logically justifiable on command), if they run into person after person who pressures, objects, and disrespects their process… it will be hard if not impossible to cultivate those intuitive gifts.

If someone can multiple twelve-digit numbers in their head accurately time-after-time, should we really require that they show their work? If communicating while making eye contact doesn’t work for someone’s nervous system, is it really disrespectful for them to look down or up and to the side while speaking and listening?

Honoring the diversity spectrum opens up vast potential for us to co-create together. It gets us to ask sincerely what kind of work and lifestyle helps each of us to thrive… and leaves so much more room for our own “weird” superpowers to shine forth.

When Differences Are Hard

We are different. Our bodies, our brains, our beliefs, and our repeated behaviors are on a spectrum so diverse that we defy labels.

And yet… label we do! A person might be labeled as an introvert or extrovert, even though each of those labels cannot hold all the variations in how people express and replenish themselves. So we add other labels like ambivert!

For those of us who want to thrive, it’s helpful to develop sensitivity to labels we hold both for and against ourselves and other beings.

Why? Because labels are rarely inclusive. An introvert (label) who is called painfully shy (label) or diagnosed with social anxiety disorder (label) now has to overcome what those mean inside their own nervous system and what the labels mean to others who use them.

Ouch. You see, labeling is used by the primitive brain to other. Are you like me? No? Then you are OTHER! The Others are not as trusted or trustworthy as the People Just Like Me.

Take any human quality or belief. Where a person falls is always on a spectrum. Yet, we when we force identity we create these walls. Inside the wall, you are One of Us. Outside, you are The Others.

Walls restrict our freedom, both in relating and in expressing our own diverse natures. As a concept for thriving, the diversity spectrum invites us to experience others as a unique blend of attributes and know that labels are shortcuts that often lead to exclusion and being cut off from relationships that can nourish us.

Being “othered” hurts. Doing the othering is something our primitive brain does. We don’t have to stay stuck there. We don’t have to give credence to the label our primitive brain comes up with. We can seek out ways we can blend harmoniously and honor that Right Distance Right Depth is a more respectful practice than building a wall.

Useful Questions

  • Am I seeing this situation or person with a label, especially a binary one like good/evil, right/left, black/white?
  • Do I feel like it is okay for people to exist on a spectrum? If not, why not?
  • When I get labeled by others, do I ever feel like that label really reflects ME – who I am in all my fullness?
  • What labels do I hold for myself that have become a part of my identity and an unhelpful restriction on my freedom?

Resources

Related Concepts

Acceptance, Magical Misconceptions, Co-Creating, Real Skills, Emotional Freedom, Awareness, Right Distance Right Depth, Gifts and Gaps, Body Guidance


Contributors: @Rick

We invite you to share your experiences and wisdom:

  • Life examples where this concept has played a role
  • Other useful questions
  • Links to audios, videos, books, and courses that add to our shared understanding of this concept
  • Memes, quotes, and inspiring images
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Thanks Rick…I really like this one…it feels to me it has a very close relationship to Contrast

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Added What color is that yellow schoolbus?

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Thanks Rick…that’s a great ‘literal metaphor’… not sure what else to call it… :slight_smile:

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Great post and glad you raised it on our circle call last night. As a diversity professional I often have to make the business case for diversity, i.e. hiring people with diverse identities will make you more money! So helpful to hear this framed in terms of survival and thriving.

“* Safety and respect are easier when we know that we could not survive (much less thrive) without diversity of interests, desires, skills, and perceptions.”

Also inwardly in terms of self acceptance.

“we can better accept ourselves and benefit from the diversity that is us.”

Thanks, Rick!
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Thank you so much @Glenn and @Dru !

I just added: Neurodiversity and Super Powers. Feels like that could be a whole book, like many of these…

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Added When Differences are Hard.

I feel tenderly all the “othering” I’ve done and all the “labeling” I’ve done to myself. Even a label that feel confident, like “smart”, ends up having walls and edges. What does it MEAN to be “smart” and if I am smart, am I allowed to not know?

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I’m actually very fond of my weirdness. It’s those weird aspects of me that I feel really define me. Not all of them…some of my weirdness can create conflict where there doesn’t need to be…within me and within my relationships. The aspects of myself that are least definitive of me are the ones that are ‘statistically average’ or ‘normal’. Those average and normal categories I’m quite happy to fit into when it comes to some aspects of my physical and mental health but as far as my personality and character goes I’m fully committed to weird. I’ve always been attracted to healthy weirdness that is invested in kindness, & compassion and most importantly playfulness.

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I’ve always struggled with what I perceive that the idea of ‘tolerance’ implies. It seems to me that tolerance is very different from acceptance. If I tolerate your point of view or your behaviours I’m not necessarily accepting it or even framing it within an attempt to understand it…I’m merely ‘putting up with it’. That’s how the idea of tolerance has always struck me. So, when people talk about tolerating different religions, lifestyles, sexual orientations, political views etc. that seems to me like a baby step in the right direction. Understanding and acceptance feel to me far more like attitudes of thriving than does tolerance. The idea of tolerance, for me, has a sense of tension in it (how long can I tolerate this?!!) that understanding and acceptance don’t.

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How about this?

  • On the spectrum, tolerance is civility and non-violence.
  • Acceptance is connecting and inclusive and allows co-creativity.
  • Celebration of diversity is thriving…
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That’s great! Brilliant in fact…I appreciate you framing it like that on the spectrum. That makes sense to me and the strange and interesting thing to me is that it instantly changed my relationship to the notion of ‘tolerance’…funny how that works. Thank you!

I’m feeling drawn toward making a visual representation of the spectrum as a result of the clarity you’ve provided…like the ‘Expectation Spectrum’ graph that I made a while back…that might be an interesting and useful thing.

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