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Take a bite out of bias: speaker says sidelining prejudice can pave a path to effective communication.

What happens when coworkers get under each others' skin, and poor communication stands in the way of progress in an age of globalization? George Dionne, from the Nieto-Dionne consulting firm, provided the solution to this and many other problems in his late February presentation entitled "Mas All de las Diferencias," or Beyond Differences, hosted by the AMERICAN CHAMBER/MEXICO at a Chamber Day event.

LEARNING FROM A KING

Dionne, the author of a book with the same name, bases a message of effective communication on his life experiences, which include meeting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s.

"In college, being white, I remember wanting to have the experience of being an object of prejudice," Dionne said.

He claimed this desire taught him how to recognize differences and problems of inter-personal communication. Throughout his life, he has emphasized integration but admits this school of thought has a price. Prejudice and bias against an array of physical, cultural and personal attributes penetrate integrated workplaces more easily and are a barrier to having objective and impartial discussions.

For this reason, Dianne told his attentive audience that to communicate effectively in these environments, a move is needed from "mine to ours; disrespect to appreciation; arrogance to humility and from hostility to hospitality."

Globalization has brought the world closer together, and this is seen in every aspect of modem society. The movement is often criticized for diluting cultures and whitewashing values that most countries feel make them unique, but Dionne offered a different view of the worldwide trend.

"Globalization gives us the possibility to appreciate the different and recognize the essential," Dionne said, "and from this, we can learn new ways of doing business."

SEEING THROUGH A NEW PAIR OF EYES

The skill of valuing another's views and sidelining pretenses is applicable to all situations, from the workplace to a world forum. With the growing crisis in the Middle East, effective communication, according to Dionne, can aid efforts to resolve these conflicts, in a similar way as in the office. 'There are a lot of voices shouting out a message of negotiation and reconciliation," he said.

But unfortunately shouting messages does not guarantee someone will listen, a point Dianne emphasized during his presentation. By learning how to listen actively, Dionne said, all parties often find faster and easier paths to the resolution of problems.

"Listen, listen, listen. The power of communication is with the one who listens," he said.

Dionne captivated executives with his advice on resolving differences. He said that before making a decision, it is important to first examine, explore, know and understand the situation and then evaluate and decide.

Citing the importance of communication and Dionne's presentation, Yazmin Moreno of Pitney Bowes de Mexico, a trade services firm, said knowing how to communicate and work as a team is an important skill and one that can even extend into the home.

"It is necessary to have good human labor relations," Moreno said. "A person's work is reflected at home with their families. If they are happy in their job, they will be satisfied at home."

Dionne said his campaign to improve interpersonal relations stems from a lifetime of interacting and a conscious decision to learn from these interactions. He advised attendees on listening and speaking skills, as well as how to put aside preconceived notions prior to interacting.

The speaker also urged the audience to "observe differences in people with imagination and appreciation." Dionne's presentation showed how to recognize and value the natural differences among peers, co-workers and family members.

According to Dionne, working with diverse types of people requires looking at interactions from a different view. This is the first step in the process, and in doing so, a new "space of encounter" is opened.

Mark Gudmastad is an intern with BUSINESS MEXICO.
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Title Annotation:George Dionne
Author:Gudmastad, Mark
Publication:Business Mexico
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Apr 1, 2003
Words:634
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