When I worked at the University of Central Florida it was required for all of us to attend mandatory Diversity Training. During the training we listened to lectures, we filled out questionnaires, and in an attempt to promote inclusive behavior and understand how others are different, we participated in interactive tests with strangers.
Of course this would have been more effective if members of the athletics department would have done so together, but we didn’t. One thing that really sticks out from the training – besides it not being productive – was the question, “What movie have you seen more than once?” I answered, Footloose. My partner, a stranger, answered, “I’ve never seen a movie more than once.”
I didn’t believe her. I mean, how could that be possible? I picked Footloose. Footloose! That was from junior high school – who KNOWS how many other movies I had seen more than once. I bombed that test because instead of accepting my partner’s differences, I stood jaw-dropped in disbelief, and voiced my disbelief repeatedly.
When I was in college I dated a guy who told me he wasn’t really a basketball fan. Since I played basketball and he was interested in me, he came to watch me play. He was younger than me, so maybe I intimidated him into coming, but regardless, he would come to Hamer Hall and watch me play basketball. I knew he wasn’t a fan of basketball but I didn’t understand his lack of knowledge about the sport.
After a game we went to grab something to eat and I was complaining about my performance. Or I was bragging about my performance, I don’t remember. Either way, he said, “When a player goes to that line and everyone lines up, why is it that sometimes they shoot one shot and other times they shoot two?”
Always the smooth talker and completely capable of making people feel comfortable in unfamiliar situations, I asked, “Are you serious,” and cracked up laughing at him. His bright red face made me realize he was serious, and I explained the difference between one free throw, one-and-one free throws, and two free throws.
Again at UCF, my boss decided to have training for our staff to promote teamwork and motivate us for the upcoming year. It was similar to the Diversity Training, on a much smaller level – tests, questionnaires, telling each other why we liked them, etc. We were asked to pick our favorite animal. That was easy for me. I had a dog at the time, a little weiner dog with a big nose and floppy ears. I loved her, so I picked a miniature dachshund.
Part two of the test was to select two words that best describe the animal you picked. I wrote lovable and dependent.
It came time to announce our answers and I realized quickly that, apparently, everyone else had taken this “test” before. I had not. All the men picked lions and tigers – strong, protective animals. When I read my answers I looked at my boss and he stared at me with a shocked look on his face. Apparently the words we wrote were some sort of self description and it was impossible for him to believe I was lovable and, well, dependent. I guess that is good? I think I bombed that test too.
I do believe, despite the number of failures I have had, I have progressed. Recently we had a new person come in to do public address for a women’s soccer game. I think she is great and my impression of her is that she can pretty much do anything media-related with ease.
I tell her all of the things she has to announce during the game – corner kicks, goal kicks, goals, assists, substitutions, free kicks, etc. – and she has this confused look on her face. I pay no attention to it, she’s flawless, and after she does the starters she says, “I’m sweating like crazy.”
I said, “Why, are you nervous?”
She answered, “Yea, I’ve never worked soccer before.”
Now, I wasn’t worried, she’s a pro. I knew she would watch the game, I knew she would pick things up, and I knew she would announce whatever we told her to announce. And she did. And, instead of me staring, or raving in disbelief, I said, “Well, I had no idea you were nervous. It certainly doesn’t show.”
I guess all of that training paid off. Instead of making her feel worse by expressing disbelief and shock, I think I made her feel better. I truly did not have any idea she was nervous but regardless, I think that is progress.