Session 5: Us and Them:
Navigating the Multicultural Divides
September 26, 2018

Us And Them. Them And Us. Us against Them. Them against Us. However you word it, it's clear there is a tension, a stress, a sense of competing interests between these two parts.


This is how a duality works. It traps our thinking into either this or that. What if this trap of using Either/Or thinking to the neglect of Both/And thinking is a fundamental cause and perpetrator of  Sexism, Racism, and Poverty?

What if this same Either/Or thinking about "us and them" also undermines our efforts to address some of the most significant dualities testing American society and seeping into workplace interactions: Immigrants And American born, Rural And Urban, Nationalism And Globalism, Individualism And Collectivism. Using the tools of polarity thinking we will increase our ability to bridge these divides by exploring the perspectives that inform them.

In our efforts to become a change provocateur to support equity, here are some questions we might ask ourselves about changing the dialogue of "us" and "them":

  • How do I/we both Claim Power And Share Power?

  • How do I/we both Include And Provoke?

In this interactive session, participants will explore cultural vantage points, examine the polarities that inform Us And Them, and practice using Polarity Thinking to support the goal of being an Inclusion Provocateur.

Learning Objectives: By the end of this session, participants will:

  • Learn or refresh their understanding of the basics of Polarity Thinking or Paradoxical Thinking

  • Understand the importance of AND Thinking when addressing issues like Sexism, Racism, and Poverty

  • Learn how to leverage one of four key polarities that may arise in workplace conversations and conflicts

  • Explore how to apply Polarity Thinking as a practice in the workplace


In 1975, Barry Johnson created the first Polarity Map® and set of principles. Since then he has been learning, with clients, how to leverage polarities, also known as paradoxes, dilemmas, or tensions. Polarity Thinking has been applied in hundreds of organizations, large and small, in the United States and globally.


Barry has worked with a variety of organizations:


Business and Industry – Amoco, GM, Intel of Ireland, Cargill, Wal-Mart, Hyster-Yale, Hershey, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, New York Live Insurance, Natura of Brazil, SASOL of South Africa.


Government – International Atomic Energy Agency, US Department of Defense, NASA, US Federal Executive Institute, US Defense Acquisition University, UK National Health Service, UK Cabinet Top Management Programme, UK National Audit Office, Canada Post of Ontario, Provincial Government of Alberta, Northwest Department of Health and National Treasury Republic of South Africa, Charleston Police Department and City of Charleston.


Education – Notre Dame, Learning Innovations Lab (LILA) at Harvard, Washington University of St. Louis, Purdue College of Engineering, University of St Thomas, Potchefstroom University and University of Cape Town in South Africa, University of Cincinnati, University of Minnesota, University of the Virgin Islands, University of Michigan.


Not-for-profit – Bread for the World, Archdiocese of Chicago, Christian Reformed Church, Local Future in Michigan, EcoSocial in Brazil, Southridge Shelter in Ontario.


He is devoted to his family, an avid outdoorsman and intrepid traveler, and brings head and heart together in his presentations, teaching and consulting. Barry and his wife, Dana, have 5 children and 11 grandchildren.


His 1992 book, Polarity Management®: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems (Human Resource Development Press) is in wide use in businesses and community organizations. His third book, AND, How to Leverage Polarity, Paradox, or Dilemma, will be out in 2019.

Peter Whitt established Enlightenment Consultant Group, LLC, as a catalyst for transformation. He strives to support leaders manage tensions through an integrative approach and strategies at the individual, team, organization and community levels. His work centers on leadership. He has worked with diverse leaders in urban neighborhoods to leaders in philanthropy and government organizations.

Peter serves on the Community Relations Board for the City of Cleveland. He provides leadership as chair of the Race Relations committee.

Through his ongoing effort addressing race inequity, Peter wrote a section in a book published in 2016 titled, A Race Anthology: Dispatches and Artifacts from a Segregated City. This section shared his perspective on race inequity as an African American.

Peter has been on the faculty for Polarity Partnerships. LLC, a two-year Mastery Program where participants receive the highest level of certification in Polarity Thinking. Peter has co-lectured a course for the Master of Diversity Management Program at Cleveland State University.  He has served as the Associate Director for the Center for Health Equity at Cleveland State University (CSU) Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs. He has also served as the Director of Community Outreach at St. Vincent Charity Hospital.

Peter is certified by the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland in coaching and organization interventions. Peter attended the University of Pittsburgh and graduated from the School of Social Work.

He also holds the title of Maha Guru (Senior Teacher-Master level) in the art of Kun Tao & Silat as part of the Willem Reeders-Sikes Lineage.  He has used this valued life long learning as tool for leadership development and emotional intelligence, not just a punch and kick.

Elizabeth Welch is an International Coach Federation certified coach and organizational development consultant in Cleveland, Ohio, specializing in Polarity Thinking, individual and team learning, and cultural influences on relationships. She employs a Gestalt approach with its relational stance and values of dialogue and respect for multiple perspectives in supporting client capacity growth.

A former English professor, Elizabeth pays special attention to language and metaphor in her work in diversity and inclusive culture building. Her coaching practice includes adults and groups in personal, academic, and professional transition. Elizabeth is a faculty co-chair of the 2018 Gestalt Training Program at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland.