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While political disagreements continue to rage on social media and in real life, one thing all Americans can agree on is that our country has rarely been so divided—or so intolerant of others’ opinions.
How can small business owners take a stand against intolerance? One way is by supporting International Day for Tolerance.
International Day for Tolerance (sometimes called Tolerance Day) got its start when the United Nations proclaimed 1995 the Year for Tolerance. Beginning in 1996, Tolerance Day has been celebrated on November 16th each year.
The goal is to:
Although intolerance is a global problem, International Day for Tolerance focuses on promoting tolerance on a smaller scale—among nations, states, communities, and individuals.
What can your small business do to support International Day for Tolerance? Here are 10 ideas to get you started.
We’re all different, whether it’s our religion, hometown, gender, favorite sports team, or something else that makes us diverse.
Host a potluck lunch where every employee brings in a favorite family recipe from their cultural background or the place they grew up, such as empanadas, strudel, or Cincinnati chili.
Employees can explain why the dish they brought is significant to them.
Pair employees up with somebody they don’t know very well, such as somebody from another department who they rarely interact with.
Have the teams interview each other to learn more about their coworker, such as where they’re from, favorite hobbies, what sports teams or music they like, what their family is like, etc. Then have each person introduce his or her new “buddy” to the rest of your staff.
Now that you’ve learned more about what makes your team diverse, pair each employee up with a new partner and give them 60 seconds to find five things that they both have in common.
Then put two pairs together and have the entire group find five things in common.
Often, intolerant attitudes are disguised as humor or so deeply ingrained in our upbringing that we don’t even notice them. Hold an open discussion of how stereotyping, insulting, or teasing different types of people express intolerance.
This can be a sensitive subject, so you may want to hire a human relations professional or consultant specializing in workplace discrimination to guide the conversation.
Get all your employees together in a circle and play the compliment game. Pick one employee and ask them to give another employee a compliment. (Keep it work-related.)
Then the employee who received the compliment gives another employee a compliment, and so on. You’ll undoubtedly find talents you didn’t know your employees had, and everyone will gain appreciation for each other.
Promote ways in which your business works to foster tolerance, cultural understanding, and cooperation all year long.
For example, does your restaurant only serve fair trade coffee? Does your store sell only clothing made in ethically operated factories? Share with your customers why these things are important to you and how they help to promote better understanding across cultures.
Diversity doesn’t stop with human beings—the world needs diverse plants, animals, and environments to thrive. Donate your time to a local environmental organization. Examine what your business could be doing better to conserve natural resources.
Or you could host your own special event. For example, a bookstore could hold readings by authors from different cultures.
If you already give to such a group, International Day for Tolerance is a great time to actually volunteer with them. Make it a group activity with your employees.
I had never heard of International Day for Tolerance before writing this blog post, and many of your customers probably haven’t, either.
Create some social media posts sharing the history of the day, celebrating famous people who have contributed to enhancing tolerance, or offering suggestions for ways your customers can honor this special day.
Being open and accepting of those who might be different from us is a critical way to come together and heal our divided nation. Let’s take some time on Tolerance Day to appreciate what makes our country so unique and special—our people.