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Inner-Circle Talk Leaving you out of touch and vulnerable? By James O. Rodgers Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has become a headline for all the wrong reasons. A recording of Sterling making racist comments to his girlfriend was leaked to the public, causing NBA commissioner Adam Silver to ban Sterling from the league for life and slap him with a $2.5 million fine. The NBA may also force Sterling to sell his team. The man has disgraced himself in the public eye. Sterling’s story isn’t unique: We hear all the time about people losing their jobs and destroying their reputations because they used racial, sexual, or homophobic slurs. Remember the backlash that actor Michael Richards faced when he used a racial slur during a comedy act? Or that PR executive Justine Sacco lost her job after her insensitive tweet went viral? We wonder how these things could happen, but the reality is that they can happen easily when we don’t surround ourselves with diverse inner circles. What is Inner-Circle Talk? Everyone wants to appear diversity-friendly and diversity mature when in public. In private, however, most of us surround ourselves with people who look, act, and think like we do. Our inner circles are not very diverse. When we spend time with our inner circles, we engage in “innercircle talk.” We have these private conversations away from the world where we can talk about whatever we want. That means we can make derogatory comments about “others” with impunity. We get a good laugh, and no harm is done. The members of our inner circle are just like us, so they’ll agree with whatever we say. But look at what happened to Sterling. He thought he was having a private conversation. But his inner-circle talk became public, and when it did, it ruined his reputation. The world is full of people who are not part of your inner circle. These people are different from you, Book Interactive Managing Differently and they won’t hesitate to cry out against you if your inner-circle talk is harmful or insensitive. Challenging Yourself with Diversity The motivational speaker Jim Rohn said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. So think about it: if the inner circle – the people you spend the most time with – is made up of people just like you, you are not going to grow or change. Your beliefs will stagnate, even as the world around you changes. Now, if you cultivate a diverse inner circle, you bring fresh perspectives into your life. Suddenly, your inner circle isn’t agreeing on everything. People will challenge what you say. They’ll challenge what you think. And that’s a good thing, because it helps you grow. It forces you to stop and take stock of what you think and say. It also puts you in a place to consider new ideas you may have never heard before. If Sterling had kept a diverse inner circle, he would have learned long ago that his beliefs were outdated and his speech was inappropriate. But he didn’t, and look what happened. There is a trap here. You may be tempted to spend all your time condemning Sterling and not looking at your own situation. We are all subject to exposure because our brain may go on automatic pilot when we least expect it. Think about it - what language do you use in your inner circle that would embarrass you or cause harm to others if it went public? Spend time purging yourself of that language by expanding your inner circle. That’s a better use of your time and effort. PE James O. Rodgers is the President and Principal Consultant of The Diversity Coach™. A pioneer in diversity management, Jim has been in the field longer than any external practitioner, save trailblazer Roosevelt Thomas, and was the first to introduce the concept of diversity management as a key business strategy. Visit jamesorodgers.com Email jora@thediversitycoach.com Twitter James Rodgers 15 Personal Excellence essentials presented by HR.com | 06.2014


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