Election 2016: Demonstrating Mutual Respect in a Disagreement

demonstrating mutual respect in tough political conversation

We’re quickly approaching Election Day 2016. While months of news coverage and debate are behind us, we’re likely still feeling the effects of a highly polarized political climate. This election cycle has caused a particularly tangible rift between people, even between friends and family who don’t typically disagree with each other. Many of us have been active participants in online and in-person conversations about the candidates, their policies, and their scandals. Many of these conversations are likely to have been intense, even heated. Many are rife with misunderstanding.

The Politics of Conversation

When emotions run high and even widespread viewpoints are so mismatched, it can seem impossible to find common ground. To top it all, fact becomes difficult to discern from fiction. Truths and untruths alike are coming at us from all directions, including our media.

This kind of political climate makes a few questions especially relevant, even urgent:

  • Do I have to respect the views of someone I disagree with?
  • Do I have to respect that person despite their views, some of which I find harmful or false?
  • Is it right to agree to disagree?
  • When is it time to talk, and time to walk away?

Navigating Tough Discussions

We aren’t always going to agree with each other. In fact, it’s pretty realistic to say that, quite often, we won’t. Conflict is a part of life. What we want to avoid is unproductive conflict. In the heat of an argument, we oftentimes become so wrapped up in the point we’re trying to make that we don’t take a moment to, first, listen to ourselves, and second, understand where someone else is coming from.

That misunderstanding gets us nowhere. The way we can start to make progress is by building personal awareness, and encouraging others to do the same.

The first 2 of our 7 Pillars of Dignity & Respect provide a platform to begin:

  • START WITH YOU. Understand how you see yourself, how others see you, and how your filters guide you and influence your behavior.
  • SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF. Understand the concepts of intent vs. impact. Become mindful of how you respond to others and be responsible for your words and actions.

Our differences shouldn’t tear us apart. Making the effort to become more aware can put us in a better position to understand each other, and it builds our ability to argue intelligently and effectively.

When Views Cause Harm

When someone’s viewpoint is harmful to others, it’s up to you to decide whether to make that person aware of the harm. However well-intentioned we are, remember that we don’t often get anywhere when we try to force our ideas on someone who doesn’t want to hear them.

We don’t have to agree to disagree with someone who is spreading harmful views. We do, however, need to build up the respect, awareness, and tools that can overcome those views. Taking time to understand where someone is coming from and seeking out what you have in common is a place to start. Providing resources, rather than telling someone you think they’re wrong, can go far. The smarter we fight, the better we become.

Demonstrate Mutual Respect (Although It’s Hard)

When we take steps to understand each other, the results might not be immediate. In the meantime, it can be difficult to be respectful. It’s even harder when the person we’re talking with doesn’t respect our views – or us.

Tip #9 of our 30 Tips is this: Demonstrate Mutual Respect. While we can’t force someone to respect us, we can lead by example. Each person is fundamentally worthy of respect and dignity. Someone you disagree with, who holds beliefs or viewpoints that are different than yours, is still someone.

We encourage you to download the 30 Tips of Dignity and Respect and learn about the 7 Pillars, which can be incorporated into smarter, more effective discussions about Election 2016 and beyond. If you want to use your organization or workplace to make the world a better place for ALL of us, with ALL of our differences, contact us for information on our workshops and speaking engagements!


Are You Registered to Vote?

Vote America, Register to VoteWe have a number of initiatives here at the Dignity & Respect Campaign to Build Cultural Awareness, Stop the Violence, Prevent Bullying, and Lead the Way – but it’s October 2016, and one of our initiatives works singlehandedly to push all the others forward: the one where we encourage you to get out and Vote!

How to Register to Vote

First things first: October 11, 2016 is the last day to register to vote in the November 8th election. That means you can register ON October 11, too, so don’t panic!

If you’re not registered or you’re not sure if you are, you can visit vote.gov to find out and complete your registration online, if allowed by your state (Pennsylvania, where D&R Campaign is based, does allow online registration). USA.gov provides a list of requirements, instructions for in-person registration, mail application, and other options and information. Each state has its own voting rules and requirements, so be sure you’re correctly informed for your state.

Does it take a long time to register? That’s a common myth. With all the necessary credentials, you can often be approved and officially registered within about a week, and the majority of the work is the government’s, not yours.

Exercise Your Privilege!

While all U.S. citizens (with a few exceptions) are granted the right to vote, it should still be viewed as a privilege. Many minority men, and women of ALL ethnicities are still only one generation removed from having no voice. We must remember the sacrifices of our ancestors and take very seriously this privilege they fought so hard for us to have.

Resources for Citizens and Leaders

In collaboration with Diversity & Inclusion, we’ve created the “I Vote Because…” campaign. Download the flyer here to learn how you can spread the word and get out the vote. The message is this: we all represent different organizations, different parties, and different perspectives, but what we have in common is respect for differences and a commitment to get out the vote. Collectively we have a stronger voice. With ONE VOICE, we encourage you to cast ONE VOTE.

As a leader, no matter where you stand politically, you can make it known that voting is a privilege, a duty, and an action that COUNTS. If anyone needs convincing, Wikipedia has a great page on close election results.

And what can we all do? We can promote dignity and respect by using the facts and standing up and speaking out. Volunteer, attend, or support national and/or local efforts. Tell others how you did your part. Encourage others to join your efforts.  And to get that all started – make sure you’re registered to vote on November 8th!

The Nuances of Treating Others with Respect

“a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements”

This definition comes straight from the New Oxford American Dictionary. It is accompanied with several other variations on the term, as well as a couple examples of its usage: The director had a lot of respect for Douglas as an actor.

When thinking of how to give respect to others, you might be familiar with the old adage, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” For the most part, this phrase rings true. When we think about the ways in which we would like others to treat us, it makes sense to model that same behavior. But the problem with this idea is that it misses a very important aspect of people, which is that not everyone is the same.

This is why, of the Dignity & Respect Campaign’s 30 Tips, Tip No.6 is crucial: Treat others the way they want to be treated. Find out what respect means to others.

You can look respect up in the dictionary, or you can define what it means to you. But neither of these will serve as one-size-fits-all solutions to interacting with other people.

Consider this simple example: Wanda is relatively carefree. She doesn’t place a lot of stock in timeliness and usually runs around 15-20 minutes late to meetings, appointments, or social dates. When other people are late to appointments with her, she is very forgiving and nonchalant about it – it doesn’t bother her at all. However, her new friend, Deb, feels differently about her time and is offended when people are late. She holds herself to different standards than Wanda and makes it a point to be on time, if not 5 minutes early, to every meeting. She feels disrespected by Wanda when she repeatedly shows up late.

Is either of these women wrong in the way they perceive tardiness? What can be done to amend this dynamic?

How to Show Respect for All
When we learn how others view respectfulness, we can apply this knowledge to our own actions. If a friend does not care for physical affection, then refrain from embracing him or her when you get together. Knowing these nuances can create better relationships or better interactions in general.

Be observant when you engage with others. If you perceive a negative reaction from someone regarding something you’ve said or done, then make note not to repeat it around that person again. By far the best way to show respect to others is to communicate with them. Ask the hard or uncomfortable questions to truly learn how others prefer to be treated. Listen fully when people communicate back to you.

It does not require a great amount of effort to have an awareness of others or to try to communicate. But that little bit of effort can reap great rewards, and will help you do your part in creating a better world for ALL to live.

Start With You: Putting the Oxygen Mask On

You’re seated on a plane, waiting for takeoff. Your seatbelt is latched across your waist, your hands rest gently on the plastic arm supports, and your elbows are tucked in by your rib cage. The flight attendant is standing in the aisle with her collection of demonstration props and a voice emanates from the tiny speakers above.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the Captain has turned on the ‘Fasten Seatbelt’ sign. If you haven’t already done so, please stow your carry-on luggage underneath the seat in front of you or in an overhead bin…”

The safety speech continues as the attendant before you gestures routinely. Your mind wanders and you peer around at the faces of the other passengers – your eyes flit out to land on the cold gray runway out the window to your left. The voice through the speakers keeps talking.

“To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head…”

Your attention returns to the flight attendant before you, donning a yellow plastic cup on her face. She delicately tugs the worn strings of the mask behind her hair in demonstration and something about this act strikes you as interesting as the speech continues.

“…secure your own mask first, before assisting other passengers.”

Whether you’ve heard this airplane spiel in person before, or maybe just seen it on television or in a movie, the concept of securing your own oxygen supply before helping someone else is certainly not new or ground-breaking. But what happens when we transfer this notion into our daily lives? Is it still straight-forward?

Believe it or not, taking care of yourself first can be a more difficult undertaking than meets the eye. Too often do we stretch ourselves too thin, take on too many commitments, and generally devote our time to others far more frequently than we devote time to ourselves. When this happens, we become overworked, stressed, and less empathetic to others. We become less able to muster up dignity and respect.

So be sure to start with you. Place the oxygen mask over your own mouth first and inhale – make sure you’re taking ample time to take care of yourself. Say no to invitations if you need a day of rest. Take time to stay fit and healthy. Take care of YOU so that you can take care of others.

3 Helpful Tips for How to Get Involved

Humans have lived within communities from the very beginning of our existence. Social interaction dates back to as early as hunter-gatherer societies – when people relied on one another for survival. Even today, communal living is very much linked to a person’s well-being and happiness, which is why we feel the need to belong to a community.

It’s probably no secret that communities thrive when its members contribute to building and maintaining them. When members focus on the collective success of the populace, there is a better chance that each individual will also prosper.

This is why one of the focuses of the Dignity & Respect Campaign is to Get Involved. When you are able to contribute to and give back to your community, not only will you feel a sense of reward, but you will also help to sustain that community. There are many options for ways to get involved in your area – no matter where you live. You could reach out to your local hospital or library, for instance, or to nearby youth organizations, rehabilitation centers, or retirement homes. The choices go on and on, which is why we’ve developed a few helpful pointers on where to start if you are looking to reach out and help:

  1. Determine what your passion is and what you can offer. If you are a person who adores reading, then it would make sense for you to check out volunteer options at your local library. If you love to be around children, then search for ways to work with the younger population. Whatever it is that generates energy and enthusiasm in yourself, start there. It doesn’t make sense to force yourself to partake in activities or responsibilities that don’t excite you – particularly since these efforts will most likely not be compensated. Once you’ve decided what your area of focus is, assess what skills you can bring to the table. Are you good with computers or bookkeeping? Can you provide physical labor? Accept and understand your capabilities before you start your researching opportunities.
  2. Research to find a good placement. If you’re looking to get involved, understand that it might take some time before you find the right opportunity. Depending on your skill sets, your interests, and your time commitment, it might be awhile before you find a good fit. This is perfectly okay. It’s better that you take time to find something suitable and interesting than if you were to take on a project you’re not committed to.
  3. Serve. When you find a good opportunity, commit to it. If you promise a certain amount of hours, uphold that commitment. There will likely be people counting on you to help; so if you say you’re going to do something, do it. Many of the organizations or facilities that will need your help tend to be understaffed as it is, so they could suffer if they have to deal with volunteers who bail out. Always make sure to communicate with your point of contact.

Remember, there are lots of options and good resources for choosing a good fit when it comes to getting involved. Even if you simply research a reputable and charitable organization to donate to, you will make a huge difference in the lives of others. Make sure you are doing your part and giving as much back to your community as you take from it.

Get involved

Universal Human Rights Month

Human Rights

For some cultures, December marks the season for holidays. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and sometimes even Milad un Nabi are just a few of the celebrations that American citizens will commemorate this month – not to mention the closing of the calendar year.

But December is also observed for another, lesser known reason: it is the Universal Month for Human Rights.

So what does this mean exactly?

It’s important to first understand how the Universal Month for Human Rights started. It began in 1948, when the United Nations wrote up a document called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This happened after the Second World War, because the U.N. wanted to prevent the atrocities that had occurred. They created the document as a way to properly define what human rights would be protected universally.

The very first article of this declaration makes it clear what the purpose is. It states:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

The rest of the document lists out what these rights are. It emphasizes how important it is to work towards protecting freedom for all in order to keep peace.

How can you observe the Universal Month for Human Rights?

There is a lot of turmoil in the world. Open up any newspaper or look on any Facebook or Twitter feed and see the many challenges our planet is constantly facing.

One of the most important things you can do throughout the course of this month – and even beyond – is to find common ground with the people around you. We must remember that all human beings were born into the same world we were and that, despite our differences, we must learn to function here together. Human Rights Month is about acknowledging that people of different races, religions, cultures, and beliefs are still just that: people. We must be careful of differentiating ourselves from others so much that we forget this.

Take the time to learn about another culture that is different from yours – perhaps a culture that makes you nervous or uneasy. Research their history or perhaps make a new friend that is a member of that culture. You’ll start to see quickly how similar all people really are. You’ll start to see just how important it is that everyone be treated with dignity and respect.

Keeping the Dream of Activism Alive

Sixties youth culture possessed so much political awareness that at the time it looked like everyone under eighteen was committed to a populist cause. Once the sea changed there were some people who maintained their idealism and continued their work in this area. Tracy Soska is one of these people. He is currently an Assistant Professor and Director of Continuing Education in the School of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh.

As a teenager Tracy marched against hunger and was an antiwar activist. He went to Pitt but dropped out to become a VISTA volunteer. When his tenure there ended, he went back to Pitt for social work study and realized then that he could make a career out of his passion—helping people and communities achieve their best.  Tracy recalls, “I couldn’t believe I could actually get a degree in something I enjoyed doing”.

Today, he is still doing it. He is involved in community organizing, social administration, workforce development, collaboration and coalition building, and university-community relations and partnerships. At the University of Pittsburgh he heads a program on Living Learning Communities. There students get hands on experience in community development. They can apply what they learn in an academic setting to real world issues the neighboring communities are facing, while employing respect and consideration for these communities.

Tracy explains the mutual benefits for the students and the community, “Too often a university can be criticized because we come in as experts, we do our studies and then leave. That’s changing. The community has knowledge. We can partner effectively with them and build long term relationships.”  He continues, “Students are learning and developing skills, and communities are learning from us. Simultaneously, students are getting that sense of partnership and collaboration. They are respectful of the expertise that the community has. We teach our students that and hopefully that’s the way my work is perceived in the community.”

Tracy was nominated as a Dignity & Respect Champion by Dr. Larry E. Davis who in his endorsement of  Tracy states, “Tracy Soska is not content to keep his work purely academic. He is more than just a scholar, he is an active member and a driving force of many neighborhood organizations.  Tracy’s hands-on approach not only demonstrates his commitment to the ideals he teaches, it inspires the students to look into community work themselves.”

When asked how he feels being recognized as a Dignity and Respect Champion, Tracy says, “Trying to emulate dignity and respect is one of the primary tenets of social work. I do that as a professor, but I also think I try to live that as a person.”

Dignity & Respect Champion Empowers the Poor by Employing Them

Ian Rosenberger is the founder and CEO of Team Tassy and Thread. Both of these organizations were founded in 2010 in the aftermath of the Port-au-Prince earthquake where Ian, who was a volunteer at the time, had an epiphany that working with the poor will be his life’s work. Ian met Tassy Filsaime in Haiti.  Tassy had survived the earthquake but was dying of an operable tumor on his face.

Ian formed Team Tassy, and after successful fundraising, brought Tassy to Pittsburgh for life-saving
surgery. The Team Tassy non-profit organization continues in its mission to realize the inherent power in every person to help end global poverty.

A second organization founded by Ian, Thread, takes trash from poor neighborhoods and turns it into
useful products while creating jobs. Ian says, “I’ve been all over the world, and the two things I see most are poverty and trash.” Thread is a for-profit business.

The two organizations Ian Rosenberger founded work in tandem, operating under the same core philosophy: the biggest problem we face as a species is multidimensional poverty and ending it is entirely possible in our lifetime.  To do this, we need to invest in the poor to create as many dignified, sustainable jobs as we possibly can. Team Tassy prepares people for employment. Thread processes recycled plastic, which will be turned into finished goods and, in turn, creates jobs for Team Tassy families.

Vivien Luk, Ian’s co-worker who nominated him as a Dignity & Respect Champion, says, “Ian sees the potential in training and employing the poor. He sees the possibilities for recycling waste, what people would never deem as an asset.” Ian, in turn, feels humbled to work with the poor people of Haiti.

He says, “The most satisfying part of my work here is giving someone the chance to stand up and be employed, especially someone who was down for a long time.” Ian feels he is “morally accountable to pursue a course of action to help the poor.” He explains, “Once you see poverty like this and acknowledge it, you have a responsibility to try and help eradicate it.”

When asked how he feels being recognized as a Champion of Dignity & Respect, Ian says, “I am very moved. I feel it’s a very cool thing and I appreciate people looking out for the work that we do. It isn’t what you do that counts, it’s the impact that you have that matters.”

Dignity & Respect Champion: Marsha Jones

When Marsha Jones, executive vice president and chief diversity officer at PNC, started her career as a woman of color in financial services three decades ago, she was a trailblazer.

Every one of Marsha’s sales management executive positions have been a milestone for African American women in the financial services industry. “There are countless experiences throughout my career where you notice that something needs to be changed, you ask why it is the way it is, and how you can make it better. You then proceed on a path to do that,” Marsha explains.

Marsha was recruited for her position at PNC three years ago from Merrill Lynch in her native New York where she was involved in multicultural business development and recruiting. She was ready to take her hard earned life lessons and apply them to a new organization where she could make the climb a little easier for both the employees and the organization. “Timing has a lot to do with everything, she said. “We are now on the brink of the impact demographics are going to have, it was natural for me to assume this position and take advantage of the opportunity to make a difference.” Marsha continues, “I had the ability to initiate a program from the foundation up and connect it across the entire enterprise, to connect the dots within the organization.”

Vibrant Pittsburgh CEO Melanie Harrington, who nominated Marsha, said, “It’s not easy to come to a new city, new organization, and a new role to lead a change management initiative. Marsha has done that and in doing so she is positioning her organization as a workplace that constantly strives to treat its employees in an exemplary manner.”

The program that Marsha promotes is an educational focus called “Creating a Culture of Inclusion”.  This training program increases awareness of cultural differences and promotes an environment where employees can appreciate contributions from a diverse group.  “The bank is experiencing generational challenges and this program in diversity training has helped the workforce better understand its constituents.” Marsha says. She continues, “We also recognize that in order to be successful we have to be able to develop relationships with those in emerging demographics, to demonstrate how we can be a good business partner for them and be able to meet their needs as customers .”

Marsha spent 28 years at Merrill Lynch, and when she started there were not many role models. She says, “I was the only woman, the only African American woman. I asked myself, if not you then who? What can I do to make a difference and be able to change that? My success demonstrated that women and people of color can be successful in a financial institution and that success was a result of the inclusive environment that was created in every position.”

Appreciation and regard for others is a way of life that was ingrained in Marsha Jones early in her professional life. She explains, “The ability to treat individuals with consideration has enabled me to be that much more successful in developing relationships with a wide range of people. An inclusive environment breeds innovation, among other benefits. You are encouraging employees to give their best, and they feel an obligation toward the successful outcome of the organization. They are part of it. They have a stake in its success.”

When asked how she feels being recognized as a Dignity & Respect Champion, Marsha says she is “Quite pleased, recognition is always nice on behalf of the work, it is gratifying.”

Do you know an individual who makes a positive impact and promotes an environment of inclusion? If so, nominate the person in your life you feel has made a difference for the Dignity & Respect Champion Award! This prestigious award recognizes people who are engaged in their communities, live by the principles of dignity and respect, and promote an environment of inclusion.

The Dignity & Respect Champion is… Claire Walker!

Women’s History Month recognizes and pays tribute to the commitment of women who worked hard to make change for the better. Dr. Claire Walker, recently retired executive director at the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation (PCGF), continues this tradition of commitment and is being recognized as a Dignity & Respect Champion for it.

Her history as an advocate started with her early work as a social planner for the Reading Model Cities Agency. There Claire learned of a problem where people went to jail simply because they couldn’t afford bail. After organizing a mock trial and helping residents to learn the facts, a new program to assist those in need grew from her efforts.

During her tenure as the research director at Health and Welfare Planning Association in Pittsburgh, she developed the first day care voucher program for children with parents on welfare that allowed them to integrate with those not in the program. Helping children in situations like these to become less invisible sparked a calling for Claire Walker. “My passion comes from the recognition that we all start as children and everything important happens there,” Claire said. “What happens to children affects their adult lives and all too often their voices are quiet and unheard.”

As policy director for the state Department of Public Welfare Office of Children, Youth and Families, she led the initiative to national compliance with welfare regulations. Due to changes, Pennsylvania children were on the verge of losing money unless the Commonwealth created new standards. Claire worked to rewrite these rules to complement the new regulations and safeguard that the department upheld the very best way they knew how to treat the children. She then created the services to do that. To ensure that these rules became reality, Claire became the executive director of Family Resources.

This position led to her time at the Child Guidance Foundation as executive director. Her task involved discovering the issues that no one discussed about the children of incarcerated parents in Allegheny County and being the children’s voice in these issues. Between 12 and 15 percent of Allegheny County children will grow up with a parent in jail during their young lives. Approximately 8,500 of these children currently live separated from one or both of their parents due to incarceration.

“At a time when people were not talking about how hard it is to grow up when your parent is in jail and you are alone, Claire found a calling to rally the world around. For the past ten years, she worked tirelessly to identify potential solutions that would ultimately change lives in Allegheny County,” said Charlotte Brown PhD., President of Board of Trustees of PCGF, who nominated Claire as a Dignity & Respect Champion. “Claire has dedicated her professional life to advocating for children.”

As their advocate, Claire worked hard to change the system by examining how the losses affected them and then gave the research to those most poised to assist. “The greatest joy I hav

e is seeing those in the legal system honor their words and respond by working to help the children,” Claire said.
Charlotte Brown comments,”Claire is a special person. She is a listener, a learner, a wise person who makes a difference by taking action and making things happen. Thanks to her dedication and vision, thousands of children in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, and ultimately the nation have the promise of a brighter future.”

Reflecting on her prestigious career as a voice for the displaced and invisible children of incarcerated parents Claire states her belief that, “We’re fellow pilgrims on this planet. Everything I’ve done, even that which was most serendipitous, is an accomplishment. At each point I’ve said that I’m so priveleged to be able to do this.”

Do you know an individual who makes a positive impact andpromotes an environment of inclusion? If so, nominate the person in your life you feel has made a difference for the Dignity & Respect Champion Award! This prestigious award recognizes people who are engaged in their communities, live by the principles of dignity and respect, and promote an environment of inclusion.