A seasonal anecdote on “difference,” by our colleague Elena Paraskevas-Thadani (She/Her)

“Elena is sensitive to the insensitivity around her.” This was the feedback my teacher gave to my mother when I was 15.

When I began my career as a litigator, some of the team said (in a well-meaning way), “You aren’t ‘tough’ enough to be a litigator.” I guess they picked up on my being “sensitive.” To them, I was “different.” Yet I litigated successfully for 20 years and made equity partner as a litigator in Big Law.

I recently looked up “sensitive” and found it was defined as “quick to detect or respond to slight changes, signals, or influences.” Also, “having or displaying a quick and delicate appreciation of other’s feelings.”

Now I focus on resolving workplace issues by training and facilitating conversations on difficult topics such as discrimination, harassment, unconscious bias, diversity and inclusion, and help resolve disputes as a mediator and arbitrator. I help leaders and professionals be their best selves and resolve workplace conflict. Being “sensitive” is now a credential.

This season, take a moment to relish the things that set you apart. I seem to recall a story about a reindeer with a shiny nose. Initially the others made fun of him because he was different. Yet somehow, in the end, he led the way.