In the absence of being able to turn a negative term into a positive in anything less than a few hundred years, what alternatives are there? One clue is in our last look at a synonym of “different.”
Earlier we mentioned the synonym “ diametric. The important dimension it adds to the inherent meanings in the term “different” is based in the Greek prefix, diá (preposition), which means through, across, akin to dýo two and di- [di-1] as in the word, diameter, a line dividing a circle into two separate parts.
Like the other synonyms, diametric bears the strong sense of the two parts, but is characterized by opposite extremes, completely opposed. As a synonym of “differences,” it, too, bears the strong “againstness” of opposition, as compared to the more neutral act of apposition, positioning side by side.
The meaning of the prefix ‘dia‘ is a dividing into two, creating a duality where there had been none. The visual is the familiar circle with an equatorial line of diameter bisecting it, the line creating two opposing sides.
Without much thought we can easily see the duality, the opposing sides in the Diversity equation. The objectives of Diversiphiles® sets them squarely on on side of sociocultural diameter line, Diveriphobes (the people no corporation will admits that it has) on the opposing side.
By definition, introducing diversity and thereby differences into a workforce, we also introduce duality. That’s no secret. In the ensuing struggle, the greatest advantage for Diversiphobes has been their positioning and inertia. The greatest disadvantage for the Diversity community in achieving its own goals and objectives over the past forty years may well rest in the invisible (but not hidden) negative power in its own language.
Rather than focusing on changing the definition of the terms, how do we change the state of duality? Let’s take a linguistic detour.
The opposite of dual is non-dual. The term that literally means non-dual is the word neutral. The word “neuter” came into use in English from the old French, in the late 1400s. So its been around for a while, experienced extensive usage in geopolitical venues over the centuries.
To some, the term is old hat, tried and true. To others, the new-found non-duality of neutrality feels religious, dynamic, new and metaphysical. Others have heard or learned little about neutrality, but whatever they’ve heard, it seems an abstract concept fraught with difficulty in application. In both geographic areas and areas of endeavor where neutrality is known and used, a language has developed around it, and set of behaviors that follows its principles and rules to the extent that they can be. They have each developed language that enables neutral communication, neutral processes, and facilitates neutral behaviors…and powerfully positive, desirable outcomes.
Once we’ve taken that important step of learning the meanings embedded in the language of human interaction, we can get to the distinction between positive, negative and neutral terms and phrases. The next step is understanding how helpful it is to apply and deploy them purposefully…or to avoid them like the plague.
In Celebrating Negativity – Part 6, we’ll conclude this series with one well known, popular and lasting way of avoiding the language of “againstness” in the discussion of human uniqueness known in Diversity as “differences.”
© Copyright 2013 – Robert D. Jones - All Rights Reserved
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