Impact of Diversity on Cross-Group Relationships

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

If you are interested in facilitating relationships between different groups, you probably want to know how diversity of backgrounds and opinions impact these connections. This lesson discusses the benefits and challenges of diversity.

Diversity and Cross-Group Relationships

Marcia is really looking forward to the next few weeks at her work, because a team from her company is joining with a working group from a community organization to plan a service initiative together.

One thing Marcia is a little bit nervous about, though, is how the cross-group relationship, or human connections between members of different groups, will unfold.

Marcia does not love conflict, and she wants the working relationship to be peaceful as well as productive. She knows that the two groups will have people from diverse backgrounds, as well as with a range of personality types and opinions.

Marcia starts thinking about how diversity tends to impact cross-group relationships. She wonders, does diversity of background and opinion promote peace in the short term and the long term?

Expanding Our Understanding of Diversity

In order to understand this question, Marcia realizes that she will need to start by developing a clear definition of diversity. In general, diversity refers to the representation of difference in a particular context.

Marcia knows that diversity is often used to refer to multiracial representation and, indeed, this is important. For instance, the community organization she will be working with is much more racially diverse than her company's working group.

However, diversity gets beyond race to include a wide range of social identity categories as well. Marcia thinks that this collaboration will offer gender diversity, socioeconomic diversity, and religious diversity.

One of Marcia's colleagues points out that it is possible to expand the concept of diversity even further to include diversity of personality type and temperament, thought patterns, and worldview. Now Marcia can see that the cross-group relationship is going to be very diverse indeed.

Diversity comes in many forms and can really benefit cross-group relationships.

Benefits of Diversity

As Marcia immediately discovers, there are many benefits to diversity in a cross group relationship. For example:

  • Having representation from a wide variety of racial, socioeconomic, ability, and religious groups makes it more likely that the work produced through the cross-group relationship will be accessible to a wide variety of communities and constituencies.
  • Everyone in the cross-group relationship has an opportunity to expand their worldview and capacity for critical thought as a result of exposure to diversity.
  • Working in diverse cross-group relationships can help individuals build their capacity for empathy and for seeing problems and issues from perspectives other than their own.
  • In cross-group relationships, diversity often means that there will be people with a wide variety of strengths. This, in turn, means that work can be allocated according to strengths and participants can help each other compensate for areas of struggle.
  • If initial challenges are articulated and worked through appropriately, a successful experience in a diverse cross-group relationship can help combat bias and discrimination overall.

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