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Life through a lens

Updated: Sep 3, 2020

How many types of people are there in the world?

Google that question and you will get a whole host of different answers.

According to Forbes online, self-made millionaires believe there are two types of people in the world; us and them.

Another link suggests that some psychologists believe there are five kinds of people in the world...the conscientious, the extraverted, the agreeable, those open to experience and the neurotic.

Huffington Post decries that there are three types of people in the world...those who are more important than others; those who are less important than others; and those who are equal in importance to others.

Young and Rubican developed a segmentation tool based on Maslow's hierarchy of needs that identifies seven types of people...the explorer, the aspirer, the succeeder, the reformer, the mainstreamer, the struggler and the resigned.

An alternative employer website proposes four types:

1. Those who have no idea what they want out of life and just take whatever life throws at them.

2. Those who know what they want out of life, but never speak up about it.

3. Those who think they deserve gold medals but really only deserve bronze, if anything.

4. Those who know what they want, ask for it and repeatedly show others they deserve what they said they wanted.

And I have heard it said that there are just two types of people in the world. Those that give you energy and those that take it.

But many 'types' of people are there? Yes, we can use market segmentation theories and practices to identify particular groups that share certain characteristics; and many businesses do this successfully to determine where to invest in product development and marketing. But when it comes to thinking about diversity and inclusion, can we really think in terms of 'types' of people? Or, in a global population of nearly 7.5billion...could it be that there are actually 7.5billion types of people in this world?

Every one of us is unique. Whilst we may associate with a particular 'type' or group or community, we are all uniquely shaped by our experiences and our life history. How we see the world is influenced by how we have experienced the world. How we behave is determined by everything that has happened in our life, and every one of us has experienced life in a very different way - even siblings and families who appear to have shared the same experiences, somehow develop different memories of the apparently same event.

We do, therefore, need to appreciate and be aware that not everyone will see things in the same way as we do. We all have a different perspective on life, on work, on love, on right, on wrong, on politics, on music, on sport...

And for me this is the essence of diversity. Diversity is about recognising that we all see things differently, that we all have a different perspectives on every situation we face, we all have very different interpretations of seemingly similar life events. Just because we see something one way, does not mean that that is the only way. The qualitative researcher in me prompts me to remember that there is 'no one version of the truth'; perspective is everything. And seeing the world from different perspectives, from other people's points of view, is a fundamental part of celebrating diversity.

As Atticus Finch* said in 'To Kill a Mockingbird'..."You never really understand a person until you consider things from their point of view... Until you climb into their skin and walk around in it."

* N.B. The words 'him' and 'his' have been changed to reflect more gender neutral language.

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