Sensitivity training, also known as diversity training, is a type of program designed to help facilitate respect between groups that include people with different genders, religions, ages, races, or sexual orientations. The exact procedures can vary depending on the leader of the training, but typically involve lectures, discussions, and exercises to help participants understand and respect one another. The training can be implemented anywhere, but tends to be most common in workplaces and educational environments.
Discussion between participants is usually one of the main focuses of training. Sensitivity training often begins with an instructor asking participants to bring up any issues of concern that they face in the work or school environment. The instructor generally encourages participants to give their perspectives and work together as a team to come up with alternative ways to deal with conflicts and to better communicate with one another. Participants may also perform role-playing exercises, in which the instructor comes up with various conflict scenarios and has them act out the most effective ways to handle various situations with different types of people without tension.
One of the main purposes of sensitivity training is to help people who come from different backgrounds communicate more effectively in order to help with teamwork and prevent misunderstandings. The program can guide participants to the realization of how their actions can potentially be misconstrued by people who have different beliefs or backgrounds. For example, a person may not realize his or her words or actions may be extremely offensive to a person of a different religion or gender, which can affect the ability for the two people to talk and work comfortably together.
Sensitivity training can also be implemented as a means to teach tolerance and prevent animosity if people in a professional environment have completely opposing lifestyles or beliefs. An instructor can provide information on how someone can handle the other person professionally and prevent personal beliefs from mistreating or causing arguments. Employers may have their employees engage in the training to help them professionally deal with customers and to prevent any legal actions due to employee behavior that comes across as intolerant or offensive.
If a person is accused of discrimination, he or she may engage in sensitivity training as a means of reform or punishment. One of the most common circumstances in which the training tends to be implemented is as a means to prevent sexual harassment. Both men and women may learn what constitutes as harassment and how to avoid it in the future.