Monday, May 25, 2009

When is it a case of unclear meaning?

Dear Diversity Diva: At a meeting, I was trying to make a point about the need for a variety of perspectives when a co-worker jumped down my throat, mistakenly thinking that I was talking about too many “white males” being on the project. The assumption ticked me off. Is that all anyone thinks you mean just because you’re a member of a minority group? — Making Sense of Assumptions

Dear Making Sense: There would have been nothing wrong if in championing different perspectives, you were including racial background. But if that’s not where you were going, it can be annoying to have to address a point you didn’t make.

Your co-worker would have been better served asking what you meant. And you should have asked him why he was reframing what you said into a completely different point.

Usually discussions like that are best held one on one, but in this case clearing it up professionally in front of the original audience would be a good tactic to nip any misconceptions. And it would set the tone for how you expect important diversity issues to be handled in your presence — which is that you don’t want the concerns you bring up to be obscured by presumptions of what people think you mean.

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