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Why Do I Have To Go To ‘Diversity Training’?

When I’m hired by an organization to train on diversity matters, the feeling in the room—though not expressed verbally at first—is that the participants are uncomfortable opening up about the subject matter. Initially, everyone is quiet. Even though I start with an icebreaker that should diminish the uneasiness many people feel when talking about race, sexual orientation, and religion (those appear to be the three most difficult), participants usually wait for someone else to speak up first.

The most common concerns they ultimately reveal about why they don’t like the topic are:

1. “I don’t know how to talk about it without wondering if I’m going to offend someone. I feel like I have to walk on egg shells”.
2. It seems to be an opportunity to blame white people for everything concerning race.
3. “We don’t have issues here so I don’t know why we have to talk about it.” (Usually stated in companies that have few minorities or women, and most are on the lower levels of the company. None or too few are in leadership.)

These comments are good indicators that any group with these beliefs could benefit from diversity training. Each one of these rejections point to the misunderstandings that could be cleared up with an effective training class that challenges participants to think and discuss the important issues around fairness, equity and inclusion. Done correctly, the training should be enlightening and an opportunity to dispel myths, misperceptions, and miscommunications. Every organization could benefit from diversity and inclusion training. They shouldn’t wait until there is a problem, and then force the staff to attend under duress. A major part of building cultural competence is to develop knowledge in this area just like any other area of skills development.

Here’s what participants need to know about each point of rejection:

Point #1—If you feel like you have to “walk on egg shells” to have a discussion about diversity matters, then you don’t have the skills to have the conversation. You need training. Anyone should feel comfortable talking about these critical topics without fear of veering into some type of danger zone. The more you talk about them, the more you understand other perspectives. The more you understand, the less likely you are to offend someone because you’ll learn where the lines are.

Point #2—Good training should not leave a particular group feeling accused. If we’re rational about it, every group can blame every other group for being culturally incompetent. No one is without fault. However, what good diversity training does is build up cultural competence, not tear down populations through differences. It is about awareness, acceptance, and accountability.

Point #3—To deny that issues exist or could exist is to miss an opportunity. It’s like the wind. Just because you don’t see issues around cultural incompetence doesn’t mean they doesn’t exist. If you were to ask around, you might be surprised by what you hear. Ask people about their comfort level dealing with people different from them. Where would they like to grow? Is your staff diverse enough? Is leadership inclusive enough? Is the upper echelon of your business or organization representative of all types--especially the people you serve? Are you missing out on a whole market segment because you don’t know how to appeal to their needs?

There’s much to learn around diversity and inclusion. And that’s why training in these areas are essential and valuable. If you think your organization could benefit from such training, contact us at (803) 622-4511 or

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