This course explored at length some of the difficult issues around the topic of communication, difference and diversity. The analysis of three specific dimensions of ‘difference’ – ethnicity, gender and disability – showed some of the complexities involved in any discussion of these issues. As you reach the end of this free course, you may feel overwhelmed by the range of perspectives and approaches described. The Introduction claimed that good or effective communication involves taking account of issues of difference and diversity, rather than treating everyone as if they have the same needs. This course has shown that putting this into practice is never an easy process. Although we may not have suggested any straightforward answers, we hope that raising some of the difficult questions will help you to develop your own practice in this area. As with the other course concepts, issues of diversity and difference recur throughout this course and you may want to revisit this course at a later point, perhaps to review and challenge your own thinking.
Issues of diversity and difference are a key factor in interpersonal communication in care services. The ways in which these issues are approached depends to a great extent on the perspective on ‘difference’ that is adopted. Essentialist approaches view differences of ethnicity, gender and disability as innate, whereas a social constructionist approach sees difference as produced in social interactions and contexts. There is a danger that essentialist approaches overlook diversity within groups and produce stereotypes that can reinforce prejudice and discrimination. Working with diversity and difference in health and social care services involves challenging structures and processes that disadvantage particular groups, as well as responding actively to the diversity of needs and interests within the population.