Director says compliments, respect help bridge cultural gaps

It’s OK for people from different backgrounds and cultures to be open and learn from one another, said Penny Hampton, Professional Development director in a Nov. 16 luncheon speech that focused on diversity.

About 20 students attended the event.

Before going into her speech, Hampton asked, “What is diversity?”

“We are all aware that differences exist,” she said. “Government and social standards have helped to motivate acceptance around the country.”

Hampton said she believes comfort gets in the way of interacting with others who are different.

People have to give up isolation, comfort levels, and pre-held notions to effectively work with others who are different, she said.

Hampton recommended a number of ways to make breaking the ice easier, such as: giving compliments, finding common ground, and treating everyone with dignity and respect.

Having a difference in cultures could also affect who a person decides to talk to, she said.

“A culture is more than where you are from, ethnicity, or age,” Hampton said. “It is everything you take in and learn from your surroundings and how you behave.”

She offered examples of cultural influences that can be a communication barrier if they are not respected.

In some cultures it can be considered rude to stand too closely to a person or shake their hand too softly, Hampton said.

She recommends, to avoid conflict, to be conscious of appropriate and inappropriate topics for discussion. If students do find themselves in an argument, knowing “how to say ‘no’ and deal with conflict” can determine the outcome, Hampton said.

Students will miss out on different ideas, learning experiences, and most importantly friendships if they choose to work only with people similar to them, Hampton said.

OCCC student Alexandra Tessier said she learned to appreciate diversity by working with different people.

“Get past stereotypes and throw them aside,” she said. “Form your own opinion.”

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