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Section 2. Building Relationships with People from Different Cultures

Tool #1: Diversity and Community Strengths

Spend some time writing down your thoughts about how the different aspects of your culture or identity (gender, race, nationality, etc., listed below) have affected you as a community builder. For example, write down how being a female or male has given you strengths as a community builder, or how it has made the job more difficult.

This exercise works much better if you do it with another person, or in a group. People should pair up and then spend some time writing down their answers. Once you are finished writing, have one person in a pair talk about their answers while the other person listens. Then have them switch roles. Afterwards, you can discuss the results in the bigger group.


Cultural factor:



Community-building strengths

Effect on difficulty of community-building

Race/Ethnic Group    
National Origin    
Geographic Region    
Sexual Orientation    
Parent's Occupation    
Your Occupation    
Parenting Experience    
Marital Status    
Athlete or Non-Athlete    
Military Experience    
Defining Life Experiences    
Other Factors    

Discussion Questions:

  • What was doing this exercise like for you? What did you learn? Was doing this exercise fun? Was it awkward or uncomfortable?
  • When talking in pairs, did you find you had more in common than you might have imagined? How was your experience different?
  • Did you find that there were some areas that you've never had a chance to talk about?
  • (If in a group) Would someone like to share what they learned in the whole group?

Most of us didn't go to schools that prepared us to live in a diverse world. People haven't been encouraged to talk about our cultures, or even recognize that they existed. So it is not surprising that talking about culture may be awkward, at first.

Tool #2: Stereotyping Exercise

Think of three common stereotypes you believe or prejudices you have. If you can't think of any right away, try a technique called "free association":

  • Across the top of a sheet of paper, write the names of three different groups. (For instance, "Texans," Football players," and Skinheads.")
  • Add "all" or "always" to each name. (Examples: "Texans all/always," "Football players all/always").
  • Underneath each name, write the first three things that come to mind. Don't stop to think. Just write.

Your examples might look something like this:

  • "Texans all own oil wells and wear boots and cowboy hats."
  • "Football players all get lousy grades, take steroids, and date the best-looking girls"
  • "Skinheads all hate Blacks, Jews, and gays and beat people up all the time."

Where do you think you learned your stereotypes? Do you have classmates, relatives, or friends who feel the same way? How about TV, the movies, the newspaper? (By the way, how many Texans, football players, and skinheads do you know personally?)

Exercise taken form the Community Leadership Project Curriculum. From the book, Respecting Our Differences by Lynn Duvall

Tool #3: What color are your jellybeans?

This resource contains a “jellybean exercise” to help participants explore their patterns of interactions.

Cover of the booklet titled What Color Are Your Jellybeans?

What Color Are Your Jellybeans? (pdf)