Communicating Social Identity

Okay, I have written 8 blogs, on 8 chapters, from a text book Difference Matters. Which leads to this paragraph:

“So why are you telling us this?” asked a colleague who read a draft of this book. “What am I as a reader to do with this? How am I to use it?” she wondered. Her questions helped me figure out how to conclude the book. The purpose of this chapter is to summarize key points we have covered. I briefly discuss four primary premises of the book, and I recommend several ways to apply what you have learned.

Allen, Brenda J. (2010-07-01). Difference Matters: Communicating Social Identity (Page 183). Waveland Pr Inc. Kindle Edition.

To which she gives this conclusion:

Three general ideas for applying what you have learned from this book are to be mindful, be proactive, and fill your communication toolbox (and use the tools!). To follow these, you will need to be committed, vigilant, and persistent. I realize that some of my ideas may seem overwhelming. So, I encourage you to start small, and do what you can. But do something—and then do something else. I hope that finishing this book marks for you the beginning of a lifelong commitment to difference matters. Peace.

Allen, Brenda J. (2010-07-01). Difference Matters: Communicating Social Identity (Page 197). Waveland Pr Inc. Kindle Edition.

In between those two statements she elaborates. Of her three steps, the third one, use tools, references the various tools she gave during the preceding chapters.  Since I didn’t go over them during the previous posts, I am going to paste them here for people to think over:

Tool #1: Mindfulness

Become more mindful difference matters. What does being “mindful”  mean? When you are mindful, you actively process information, you are open to new ideas and insights, and you are sensitive to context. Also,  mindfulness is “a heightened state of involvement and wakefulness or  being in the present.” In other words, being mindful requires you to  observe yourself in the process of thinking. Put even more simply, being  mindful means thinking about what you’re thinking about. Becoming more
mindful can help you become more sensitive to your environment, more  open to new information, more conscious of how and what you perceive,  and more aware of multiple perspectives for solving problems.
To be more mindful about difference matters, notice and question how  you categorize and characterize others. Try to notice when you are relying  on stereotypes and prejudices about social identity groups. When you meet  someone different than you, be aware of which social identity cues you  highlight, and remember that each person embodies a complex set of social  identities. Monitor your thoughts and feelings related to other people based  on their gender, race, age, and so forth, including people who belong to the  same groups as you. Cultivate curiosity about how you and others construct and perform social identities. Also pay attention to how you perceive that others are responding to you. Look for ways that you are guilty  of TUI (Thinking Under the Influence) of dominant belief systems or stereotypes, and try to restructure your thoughts.
To really develop this tool, improve your critical thinking skills. Consider taking a course or referring to books or Web sites on critical thinking.  Please see my Web site [] for links to critical
thinking sites.

Allen, Brenda J. (2010-07-01). Difference Matters: Communicating Social Identity (Page 9). Waveland Pr Inc. Kindle Edition.

Tool #2: Media Literacy

Media literacy refers to our ability to critique and analyze media and its  potential impact. Media literacy education strives to empower us and to  transform our usual passive relationship with media to be more active,  engaged, and critical. Media literacy education improves how we use critical thinking skills as we “sift through and analyze the messages that  inform, entertain and sell to us everyday.”
Especially relevant to difference matters, some media literacy curricula  critique and analyze power dimensions of how media represent gender,  race, class, and sexuality. They focus on recognizing and challenging systematic biases and distortions. They also encourage using media as instruments of social communication and change. They promote producing
alternative media that challenge dominant ideologies and portray more  accurate and comprehensive views of nondominant groups.
One framework of critical media literacy includes the following concepts and questions to guide critical thinking about media messages:
• Concept: All media are constructions. Therefore, they are subject to the  biases of their creators.
• Questions: Who created this message? What did they hope to accomplish? What are their primary belief systems?
• Concept: Different people experience the same media message differently.
• Questions: How might different people understand this message differently than me? What do I think and feel about this?
• Concept: Media have embedded values and points of view.
• Questions: What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented or omitted in this message? What does this tell me about how other people live and believe? Does this message leave anything or anyone out?
• Concept: Media are organized to gain profit and/or power. Furthermore, only a handful of corporations dominate the U.S. media market.
• Questions: Why was this message sent? Who sent it? Is this trying to tell me something? . . . to sell me something?

Allen, Brenda J. (2010-07-01). Difference Matters: Communicating Social Identity (Page 29). Waveland Pr Inc. Kindle Edition.

Tool #3: Cultural Competence

“Cultural competence” refers to how well you can interact effectively  with people from cultures other than your own.
Cultural competence includes “an experiential understanding and acceptance of the beliefs, values, and ethics of others as well as the demonstrated skills necessary to work with and serve diverse individuals and groups.” The concept of cultural competence originated in health care professions, where providers became aware of communication challenges based on cultural differences while working with diverse patient and client populations. Members of these professions and others have created a wealth of information about how to deal effectively and humanely with challenges in cross-cultural communication through cultural competence training. Training often
includes four components of cultural competence:
1. Awareness: Become more aware of how culture operates in your life. Reflect on and examine your own cultural background and values, as well as biases and prejudices. Also become more aware of how you perceive and respond to other cultures. Recognize impacts of your cultural background on your perceptions and communication style.
2. Attitude: Increase your level of respect for different heritages.
Become comfortable with differences between your culture and other cultures’ values and beliefs; be sensitive to cultural differences. Be open-minded about cultural differences.
3. Knowledge: Understand power structures in society and their impact on nondominant groups. Learn more about other cultural groups and your own. Recognize and acknowledge societal and institutional barriers that prevent members of disadvantaged groups from using organizational and societal resources.
4. Skills: Develop, use, and improve skills for cross-cultural communication that include a wide variety of verbal and nonverbal responses. Select and use various media to communicate accurately and appropriately. Intervene and advocate on behalf of individuals from different
cultures (i.e., serve as an ally).

I encourage you to seek and create opportunities to develop these components of cultural competence. By becoming culturally competent, you learn more about yourself as well as others, thereby expanding your horizons and gaining a better understanding of multiple views and experiences
that form the foundation from which others see the world. A culturally competent individual can think critically about power and oppression and work to foster fairness and appropriate actions that apply in all contexts.

Allen, Brenda J. (2010-07-01). Difference Matters: Communicating Social Identity (Page 75). Waveland Pr Inc. Kindle Edition.

Tool #4 Networking

The old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” is true, to a certain extent. According to many sources, nearly 80 percent of job openings available at any one time are never advertised. These jobs exist in the “hidden job market.” You can access this invisible market through networking. Networking seems to come naturally to many members of dominant
groups because they have been socialized to make and use connections. However, many people may not feel empowered to network or they may not know how to network. Yet, anyone can build and maintain an effective career network. Here are some tips:
• Build a local career network of anyone who has helped you or who might help you with your career in any way—regardless of where you are on your career path. For instance, list current and former teachers, employers, classmates, and coworkers. (I got my first job when I finished college from my 8th grade English teacher, who was directing a citywide library program.)
• Be inclusive in building your career network. Don’t limit yourself to people who are like you. Consciously include people from varying social identity groups and with diverse professional interests.
• Consider adding variety to your routine so that you’re exposed to new people, places, and ideas.Attend workshops, conferences, seminars, job fairs, and other career-oriented events. Also, network during social functions. When you meet someone new, exchange business cards (if you’re not employed, create a basic card with your name and contact information), and follow up with an e-mail saying that you were pleased to meet her or him.
• Stay in touch with members of your network. Drop an occasional line to check in, or schedule a beverage break. Also, send them information related to their professional interests. Don’t wait until you need something to contact individuals in your network.
• Be generous within your career network. Tell your connections about job openings or opportunities for career development.
• Use the Internet. Sign up for online social networking tools (I won’t name any because they change so rapidly; ask people in your network to recommend online social networks relevant to your interests). Also, find out which sites and organizations are active among people in your career area and browse these for information and insight.
• Consult resources on career networking. If you’re in college, your campus probably has a career services office. Don’t wait until you’re about to graduate to use this resource. If you’ve graduated from college, check to see if your university’s office offers services to alums. If you’re not affiliated with a university (and even if you are), a great reference for networking is What Color Is Your Parachute, by Richard Bolles.

Allen, Brenda J. (2010-07-01). Difference Matters: Communicating Social Identity (Page 97). Waveland Pr Inc. Kindle Edition.

Tool #5:”People First Language”

Similar to the other social identity groups we’re studying, people with disabilities and their allies have developed guidelines for preferred terminology known as People First Language (PFL).
PFL provides an objective way to acknowledge, communicate, and report on disabilities by stressing each person’s individuality. It acknowledges that individuals with disabilities are not their diagnoses or disabilities. They are—first and foremost—
people. By focusing on the person rather than a disability, PFL seeks to promote understanding, respect, and dignity and to decrease generalizations, assumptions and stereotypes.
People First Language invites us to refer to the individual first and the disability second. So, you would say “a child who is autistic” instead of “the autistic child.” Use People First Language to tell what a person HAS, not what a person IS. One author explains: “I have multiple sclerosis but that’s not what I want to be known for. I hate it when a person first meets
me and all they want to talk about is my wheelchair or my multiple sclerosis. That’s not who I am.” She elaborates: “Know me first as a person with my own thoughts, opinions, beliefs, experiences, career, dreams, and political associations.”
People First Language emphasizes abilities instead of limitations. For example, say “a man walks with crutches,” not “he is crippled.” Also, do not refer to a person as bound to or confined to a wheelchair. After all, wheelchairs liberate people with disabilities by making them mobile. Here
are a few other examples of People First Language:
People First Language
Say this: Instead of this:
People with disabilities The disabled;the handicapped

Person with a mental disability Retard; psycho; lunatic

James has bipolar disorder James is a manic depressive

Pat has a learning disability Pat is learning disabled

As you consider what terms to use regarding someone with a disability, consider this advice from a disability activist: “Keep in mind that some phrases are no longer used in polite conversation. We never, ever use the terms mentally retarded or crippled for any reason whatsoever. In the evolution of our language, those terms have become derogatory and should
never be used.”
Also ask yourself if you even need to mention a disability when referring to someone. Is it relevant? Furthermore, note that, similar to other groups, persons with disabilities have varying opinions about how others refer to them. The author quoted earlier says: “I don’t care if someone calls me a ‘disabled person.’ It doesn’t bother me. Others care very much.”
I’d rather err on the side of seeming to be politically correct than insulting someone. What about you?

Allen, Brenda J. (2010-07-01). Difference Matters: Communicating Social Identity (Page 153). Waveland Pr Inc. Kindle Edition.


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