Last week I finished the third and final class of Cleveland State University’s Leadership Forum on Diversity series. Since most of the information presented during the series served as refresher for me, it was the dialogue among students that provided the greatest knowledge. Like in real life, open conversation is often the best teacher.

The class was filled with diverse learners: students, staff, faculty and regular folks from the community like me, interested in increasing diversity awareness and cultural competency. Yet with all of these varied personal experiences competing, we were able to create meaningful dialogue and learn a few things in the process. Did you know that military families were horrified when the KIA car company was introduced because the name also means killed in action?

It’s often the information that we don’t consciously think about and that others don’t know that provide such interesting dialogue revelations. Several months ago I wrote a post about taking the point of view of others and what I learned from having a candid discussion about race with one of my closest friends, who also happens to be African-American, although knowing her she’d probably just like me to refer to her as black.

Dialogue, as I learned from my friend and now my recent class, is probably the most important factor in creating and sustaining respectful and diverse relationships, especially in the workplace. Honest and candid dialogue among peers and colleagues allows us to learn more than we, as individuals can know on our own.

But before we rush in, here are a few guidelines to consider when creating respectful dialogue:

  • Share your perspectives, listen to the perspectives of others, notice and respect differences and   seek to understand them.
  • Acknowledge and inquire with interest about the perspectives of others.
  • Inquire about and seek to understand the assumptions of others.
  • Suspend debate and the need to prove the other person wrong.
  • Understand and share your assumptions.