Sonder is an important concept in thinking about diversity and inclusion, says Kevin Carroll, best-selling author and “katalyst” for social change. According to the inventor of the word, sonder is “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness.”
Bring curiosity to the conversation
“Many talking points on diversity and inclusion have been used and overused so much that people think they ‘get it’ because it’s talked about so much,” Carroll said. But the current social and political climate in the U.S. demonstrates that many people still aren’t ‘getting it,’ and perhaps there are innovative ways to improve understanding.
“I think it’s important to bring some curiosity and imagination to these conversations,” Carroll said. “Have some wonder about it.”
As a speaker and author, Carroll inspires businesses, organizations and individuals—from CEOs and employees of Fortune 500 companies to schoolchildren—to embrace their spirit of play and creativity to maximize their human potential and sustain more meaningful business and personal growth. He has dedicated his life to advancing sports and play as a vehicle for social change, and he speculates that bringing a fresh perspective may spark some creative approaches to dealing with these issues.
Toward that end, Carroll encourages AACRAO members to work on their “creative confidence.”
How to build creative confidence
“Use your imagination, your creative energy, like a muscle,” Carroll said. “Try not to default to what’s expected and easy-to-execute. Always seek inspiration.”
According to Carroll, here are three ways to work your creative muscle:
1. Move beyond transactional. “Look up more! Shift your gaze and change your perspective, Carroll said. “The little screen doesn’t have all the answers, and when you choose to be present -- be where you are -- you might hear something you hadn’t heard before because previously you were being transactional.”
“If you’re in the business of higher education, you can’t be transactional, you have to be transformational,” he said.
2. Find the little aha!s. “Sometimes the big breakthrough happens because of a tiny thing,” Carroll said. “Think about a prism: a tiny shift to the left of right can make you think about diversity differently.”
“If I have the energy to be present I can view even the little things with curiosity,” Carroll said. “Maybe I’ll hear a word or see video from a week ago and perceive it differently, and suddenly I can share it in a meeting and attach it to an idea, a program, or momentI’m trying to create.”
3. Make it a habit. Engaging in wonder and curiosity--even with the little stuff--will, over time, build your creative confidence in your professional and personal life.
“How you do little things is how you do all things,” Carroll said. “That’s what my grandfather taught me.” Although it seems paradoxical, cultivating a habit of presence and wonder will help spark your imagination even more.
Amplify the student’s journey
The concept of sonder invites us to go beyond dehumanizing, one-dimensional understanding of each other to begin to have real conversations.
“We’re trying to create the optimal environment for students to maximize their potential,” Carroll said. “In that case, ‘sonder’ is a lovely word for people to consider. In higher education, it’s all about amplifying the student’s journey.”
Carroll will bring his sonderous perspective on diversity to the AACRAO Annual Meeting in Orlando, as Tuesday’s plenary speaker.
“In the work I do with the diverse communities I’m around--creatives, business people, athletes--I often ask ‘How do we celebrate difference?’,” Carroll said. “AACRAO members have the opportunity to value and honor diversity, and I’m happy to be raising my voice on behalf of it.”
Get inspired! Join colleagues across the country and around the world at the AACRAO Annual Meeting, March 25-28 in Orlando, Florida! Register now for the early bird discount!