Don’t Sweat the Diversity Conversation

Diversity is Comfort with Discomfort 

Bringing up diversity and inclusion can be uncomfortable, but doesn’t have to be.  As an ally, it’s your duty to facilitate comfort with discomfort.  The ingredients for comfort with discomfort often rely on trust, candor, and curiosity.


Gone are the days of the trust fall and ropes courses to build trust as a team.  In the increasingly virtual environment, we have to build trust while distanced.  Yet, trust virtually is largely the same.  To build trust, vulnerability is required.  Vulnerability is the thread of which the rope of trust is built.  The challenge with trust is that much like a rope, it takes a long time to be woven into a strong relationship and can be severed in just one sweeping action. 

Trust often begins within.  It is hard to extend trust to others if you do not trust yourself.  Consider this self-trust assessment:

  • I trust others openly
  • I take responsibility for my actions and do not blame others
  • I work toward common goals vs. my own goals
  • I have a growth mindset vs. fixed mindset
  • I focus on the positive vs. the negative
  • I tell the truth even when it is hard
  • I am calm under stress
  • I share feedback openly with others
  • I tell the truth vs. say what others want to hear
  • I lead by example

How did you fare?  When I facilitate this exercise with large groups, people admittedly have at least two or three vulnerabilities with trust of themselves and others.  It’s only natural to experience mistrust if you’ve had negative experiences.  It’s our way of protecting ourselves. 

Think of your own trust scale.  Do you go into relationships fully trusting people, or are you neutral and it’s up to people to gain or lose trust based on their behavior, or maybe you might start with low trust and let people work themselves up from there.  There’s no right or wrong answer, it’s more about self-awareness.  Trust is paramount for candor to be possible.


At Next Pivot Point, we have a proven 3 D’s model to having a candid conversation.  The first step is to define the issue.  Candid conversations go sideways when we haven’t clearly defined what we’re talking about, or what the goal of the conversation is.  Ask yourself, what does success look like at the end of this conversation? What am I hoping to achieve with this person?  Be vulnerable and say that this is a candid conversation and that this might be hard for both of you, but you’re talking because you care.

Second, make it a discussion. The best candid conversations have shared air time and are less about conversation ping pong but truly understanding the perspective that the other person.  That means that as an ally, you need to ask open questions that start with powerful words like what or how.  You want to understand the thinking of the other party.  Your goal is to learn more about their perspective and not impart yours more firmly.  That generally creates defensiveness and little change. 

Third, decide.  This might be the most important and often most overlooked step in the process.  Come up with a game plan.  How are you going to prevent this from happening again?  What are the behaviors you are both accountable for?  What’s the follow-up plan?  Change rarely happens in a one-time discussion, it’s a series of conversations that leads to better results and inclusion. 


Curiosity did not kill the cat.  As humans, we’re social animals and are naturally curious about others, especially those that are different from ourselves.  That’s where we learn and grow the most.  This means that when you see somebody doing something that you would judge as different or perhaps unacceptable, instead of judging their behavior, think about what you can learn from that behavior or why they might be demonstrating that behavior.  If you go in curious, you’re more likely to find a mutual resolution or learn something new. 

If you liked this post, check out our Next Pivot Point Diversity Training.  We meet leaders where they are on their diversity journeys.  Schedule a demo to learn more.