‘Tolerance’ Is Not Enough In providing services to people from different backgrounds, clinicians should move past tolerance to appreciation. From My Perspective
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From My Perspective  |   August 01, 2017
‘Tolerance’ Is Not Enough
Author Notes
  • Mia Kimmons, MS, CCC-SLP, is a student in the speech-language pathology doctoral program at the University of Cincinnati, and a telepractice clinician for students in grades K–12. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 1, Language Learning and Education; 14, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity; and 16, School-Based Issues. miakimmons@gmail.com
    Mia Kimmons, MS, CCC-SLP, is a student in the speech-language pathology doctoral program at the University of Cincinnati, and a telepractice clinician for students in grades K–12. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 1, Language Learning and Education; 14, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity; and 16, School-Based Issues. miakimmons@gmail.com×
Article Information
Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Professional Issues & Training / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / From My Perspective
From My Perspective   |   August 01, 2017
‘Tolerance’ Is Not Enough
The ASHA Leader, August 2017, Vol. 22, 8-9. doi:10.1044/leader.FMP.22082017.8
The ASHA Leader, August 2017, Vol. 22, 8-9. doi:10.1044/leader.FMP.22082017.8
As a speech-language pathologist, I may be overly sensitive when it comes to vocabulary use, but every time I hear the word “tolerance” in reference to cultural and linguistic diversity, I shudder. I hope that as SLPs, we can work to move past “tolerance” to “appreciation.”
“Tolerance” has in the past been a buzzword in education, churches, business, politics and the media in attempting to ease cultural tension while highlighting our need to become more aware of cultural differences in our country. Tolerance may be necessary to start building a strong foundation of cultural competence, but it cannot end there.
Tolerance is the ability to accept—or at least have sympathy for—beliefs or practices that you dislike or disagree with. These definitions indicate that to develop tolerance for someone or something is to become more patient and lenient, but they also imply a way of allowing something unpleasant to exist even though it is annoying or unwanted. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 50.4 percent of the nation’s population under the age of 1 year was minority in 2012. However, ASHA’s 2016 membership profile reports that 92.1 percent of the membership is of white/non-Hispanic ethnicity. These data should guide us to focus on the likelihood of providing services to people whose background is different from our own, and to be mindful of potential cultural differences.
As a woman of color, I am an advocate for addressing diversity in an attempt to reduce the incidence of hate crimes, racism, bigotry and discrimination. The many programs that have been developed to promote tolerance education are excellent ways to help us become more aware of cultural and linguistic differences while learning to live and react amiably with those who are different from ourselves.

I am an advocate for addressing diversity in an attempt to reduce the incidence of hate crimes, racism, bigotry and discrimination.

Toward appreciation
Promoting tolerance is a good starting point. However, audiologists and SLPs need to move beyond tolerance when considering how services are offered to those who do not share the same culture or linguistic background. We should ask ourselves if we are meeting the needs of those we serve within their cultural and linguistic communities as well as opening doors to speech, language and hearing competence outside of these communities.
It takes more than tolerance to meet those goals. It takes valuing the views of people who call these places home while recognizing the worth of the distinct differences in learning and communication styles.
No one wants to just be tolerated. We tolerate challenging clients, co-workers and personal situations, perhaps because we feel obligated. Should we stop at developing tolerance for those we serve from different backgrounds? I don’t think so. Appreciating our clients’ differences moves the nature of tolerance away from the negative meaning that may be associated with the word. I’d like to suggest that we move toward appreciation. When we appreciate cultural and linguistic differences, we rise to a level of learning to see worth as well as commonalities in people who are different from us. We welcome differences when we appreciate rather than tolerate those from different backgrounds.

When we appreciate cultural and linguistic differences, we rise to a level of learning to see worth as well as commonalities in people who are different from us. We welcome differences when we appreciate rather than tolerate those from different backgrounds.

How we get there
SLPs and audiologists could move beyond simply tolerating their clients’ cultural and linguistic differences to appreciating differences in many ways. I offer some tips that have been helpful in my quest to go beyond tolerating to appreciating others.
  • Learn more about your own culture. We all are a part of a culture and a community with a rich history. We should become aware of who we are, what we do and why we do it. But there should be no assumptions that your way is the right or only way.

  • Get involved in the communities where your clients interact. Find ways to get involved with the community outside of the workplace. For example, audiologists and SLPs in schools could volunteer to participate in after-school programs. Those who work in medical settings or private practices could attend community outings or collaborate with other professional disciplines and organizations to choose or organize activities that promote cultural and linguistic appreciation.

  • Become a multi-language linguist. Ask you clients to teach you about their native language or dialect.

  • Find positive examples of people who represent communities you serve and learn from those who are willing to share the culture of their community.

  • Find balance. Stay focused on the person, but remember that the person is part of a community with its own customs and beliefs that affect communication.

  • Evaluate and consider your own views in relation to harmful media and stereotypes that work to form destructive views and damaging opinions about a certain group.

  • Be truthful. Let colleagues, clients, patients, students and others know that you need their cooperation and support to learn more about their cultural and linguistic differences. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

  • Stand up. Don’t participate in conversations that disparage others or stand by and allow those who are different from you to be mistreated. Use your knowledge as a platform to educate those who do not tolerate or appreciate differences.

These practices can help us begin to better appreciate the differences in the daily lives of people within the community. Using an appreciative approach to service delivery and education will help foster positive relationships between those in our profession and the clients we serve. This positive relationship will build a foundation that makes it easier to meet goals and build lasting interactions that lead to better outcomes.
No one wants to just be tolerated. Everyone wants to be appreciated.
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August 2017
Volume 22, Issue 8