Employers look for applicants with well-developed ‘soft skills’; that is, people who can think critically, innovate creatively, and interact well with other people. As inclusivity becomes increasingly important, so too does the ability to treat those who are different from you with respect and consideration. Here are four small things you can do over break to work on the ambiguous skill of “navigating difference.”
Any time you interact with someone else is a chance to offend that person. And that’s okay–it’s part of being human. The sooner you embrace the fact that you will, sometimes, be less-than-graceful, the easier it is to relax and engage with other people earnestly.
Take an online bias test.
Implicit bias tests aren’t perfect, but they can help you learn about disparities between your internal inclinations and your conscious beliefs. Try this series from Harvard; there are tests about gender, specific races, disability, sexuality, and more.
Actually talk with difficult relatives.
Before you attend an event with your least favorite cousin (see above), think about what you could do to improve potentially confrontational or awkward situations. Instead of asking leading or loaded questions (“So who did you vote for?”), ask open-ended “how” or “why” questions about more innocuous topics. Most people really enjoy talking about themselves, and you may discover that while you shouldn’t talk about economic downturn with your ornery uncle, you both like Game of Thrones.
Learn something new about another culture.
Watch a film or read about a part of the world you’ve never visited, a cuisine you’re curious about, or an issue you don’t understand.