The Eighth Component of the Thinking Environment: Difference
The component of Difference has only recently been renamed to Difference; we used to talk about it as the component of Diversity. And one of the reasons why we renamed it to Difference is because “diversity” has become one of those words, which I call “corporatized” - a little bit like the word “respect”, and the word “transformation”. People stopped thinking about what we really meant by the component of Diversity, and so we renamed it to Difference.
What we mean, by the component of Difference, is that we create an environment in which people feel not only that their group identities are celebrated, championed, welcomed, needed, wanted, sought after, but also that their different way of thinking about things is similarly required and celebrated and needed and wanted.
Those are the two different aspects of the component of Difference: welcoming both divergent group identities, but also welcoming a divergence of thinking. And you can see, if you start to think about the component of Difference, what connection it has with the component of Information - where we talked about embracing and recognising the difference in social contexts that will be present in between any group of people - and the component of Encouragement, where I talked about being genuinely interested, and giving a person the courage to go to the cutting edge of their own ideas, even if their ideas don't conform to your ideas, and aren't in agreement with your ideas.
So, you can see that those three components: Encouragement, Information and Difference, have this symbiotic relationship with each other – as, in fact, do all ten components of a Thinking Environment.
One of the things that I've learned from the component of Difference - and it has made the world of difference to me, in my life - is the ability to stay interested when I don't agree, and to notice how my component of Attention and the component of Equality and the component of Ease can all disappear rapidly when someone says something that flies in the face of some value that I hold dearly, and how my body actually starts to change in relationship to that person. Certainly, my way of being changes to how I almost become somebody who wants to shut the other person down, or correct them, or get them back on to a more accurate path, i.e. my path.
So, the component of Difference has made a huge difference in my life, because now, when someone says something which I really don't agree with, I find it so much easier to say: “Tell me more. Tell me more about that, because maybe you see something that I don't see. Maybe I can learn from you, and I can expand the view of reality that I have because the way you see Life is different to the way I see Life.”
And that's a very famous saying, isn't it? In fact, so many people are attributed to having said this, that I don't know where it originally came from. But the saying is that we don't see Life the way it is; we see it the way we are. And so, if we want to create environments in which people can truly think for themselves, we need to create environments in which they can think as themselves and they are different to you.