Ice Breakers for Diversity Training

Written by michael monet
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Ice Breakers for Diversity Training
Diversity training may be uncomfortable, so it is important to start with an ice breaker. (business team image by Dmitri MIkitenko from Fotolia.com)

Diversity training is a delicate and necessary part of any workplace, as it deals with the beliefs, backgrounds, lifestyles and identities of many different types of people. One cannot run a diversity program and expect all members to instantly accept or understand what it means to be diverse in every aspect, whether that be gender, age, sexuality, race or culture. It will be useful to start with an icebreaker, which is designed to turn nervous or defensive feelings into a trusting and safe environment.

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Preparation

It is important to know who will be present at the diversity training, what their backgrounds are and what they hope to get out of the training. Taking a small survey that asks these questions may assist in choosing an appropriate ice breaker. It will not help to perform icebreakers that are exceedingly uncomfortable for anyone in the group, as this could scare members away from returning to a second training.

Name Games

Names are an important part of one's identity. If a person is born with a name he does not feel fits his personality, he may choose another--even those who are satisfied with their names may go by nicknames. Encouraging each member to go by their preferred name will make that person feel recognised for who they feel they really are. To perform a name game, have members stand in a circle so that everyone can see each other. Start with one person and have him introduce himself. When the next person introduces himself, he has to remember the first guy's name and then say his own. The third person to introduce himself will have to remember the last person's name and the name before him and say his own. This continues on until the last person must remember everyone's name in the circle. Not only do members get to introduce themselves by their preferred name, but names are repeated more than once and will, therefore, be remembered more easily by the group.

Stereotypes

Diversity training is for disproving stereotypes about gender, race, age, sexuality, ethnicity and religious background. A great way to remove some of the tension surrounding these issues is to talk openly about them. Go around the room and have each member say a commonly known stereotype about a given group of people. By writing what each member says up on a board as you go around the room, you are creating a space for conversation. When everyone's thoughts are out in the open for everyone to see, members will most likely feel more comfortable and compelled to talk about them. Agreements may not always be reached, but compromise and understanding will result from both parties. If the leader senses that the group is uncomfortable talking about stereotypes out loud, this game can be done anonymously by having members write their thoughts on a scrap of paper and turning it in to the leader to read aloud before conversation begins.

Short Stories

Giving members a short homework assignment to remember an old family story from their childhood will open up each members life to the group. The best way to disprove stereotypes is to reveal that, at the root, all people have similar experiences in the world, though they may manifest in different ways. Have each member write down a short, childhood story and share it with the group, allowing time for questions and conversation. It is likely that the unique backgrounds of each member will show through their stories, sparking interest in the group and resulting in open conversation.

Jeopardy

Making a mock game of jeopardy during diversity training can be both fun and educational. If it happens to be a special month, such as women's history or black history month, the leader can make the game out of historical statistics, such as those from the civil rights movement or women's history. Divide members into two teams. Create categories, such as important figures in women's history. Assign points to questions in each category based on their difficulty. When a member picks a category for a certain number of points, the leader will ask that member the question out loud. If he answers correctly, his team gets the points, and if not, the question is turned to the opposing team. This game will gauge how much members already know about groups of people different from them, and how much more in depth you should go in later trainings.

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