Everyone has a role to play in creating and supporting a diverse and inclusive environment and culture. Here are my 10 tips for cultivating inclusion:
1. Know yourself
Get comfortable with who you are – the dimensions of your identity, your culture and the lenses that inform your worldview. Do not assume that you’re not “ethnic enough” or “don’t have a culture,” or that you’re not unique. We have all been acculturated over the course of our lives, and only a person who is comfortable with their own identity can be an equal partner in promoting inclusion.
2. Share your values
Share openly with people your desire to eliminate oppression in all its form. Talk affirmatively about groups that are different from your own, to yourself and others. Emanate respect and empathy in your words and actions. Share your positive values with the world.
3. Seek understanding
Spend time with people who have different life experiences or worldviews from you. Getting to know people at deeper levels places them (and hopefully other people like them) into a “familiar” category in your brain. This minimises the automatic negative or fearful response that triggers naturally in all humans when we encounter something or someone quite different from us. Purposefully seeking to understand others allows us to appreciate diversity at a greater level.
4. Be vulnerable
Share experiences from your own life and upbringing. Inclusion isn’t just about giving support or friendship or understanding. It’s also about exposing and sharing parts of yourself and your life with others. Being vulnerable and relational is a wonderful way to enhance inclusion by encouraging others to be their authentic selves through your own vulnerability.
5. Invite the person & ask the person
Invite others to share their experiences and views with you, when and to the extent they feel comfortable. Each person is unique, so avoid making assumptions about how open a person will be with you. Everyone is different and the best way to understand someone else is to just ask them. Ask them about their experiences. Ask for their opinions. Ask for their ideas in meetings. Ask how they are feeling. Ask how you can best support them.
Instead of making assumptions about them, just ask them.
6. Just listen
If someone tells you something that is inconsistent or different to your own experience, rather than try to justify it, just listen. Remember that another person’s experience or perception is real to them. Although this tip sounds a little simplistic, it is extremely important. Remember:
The real work of inclusion is to listen and to make others feel validated.
7. Speak up
If you see or hear inappropriate, offensive or derogatory behaviour, say something. We all have an obligation to call out discrimination and harassment.
8. Question your own thoughts and behaviours, without feeling guilty or ashamed
We all have unconscious bias and internalised negative messages about others. Your need to examine these messages and decide whether or not they still have a place within your current value system. And if they don’t, remove them, forgive yourself and move on.
9. Keep learning
We are all learning, all the time. Inclusion is a learning journey, and we need space to practice, to try, make mistakes and be given alternatives without judgment. Embrace change as an opportunity to learn and grown, and empower others to do the same.
10. Be persistent
Creating an inclusive culture is ongoing work and is not a check-the-box activity. I have committed myself for years to the tireless work of self-reflection, challenging myself (and my behaviour and assumptions), acting courageous (which has sometimes cost me relationships) and learning, with and from people who are far different from me.
Every day I think about what I could do or say different, how I came across in a way that was perhaps not what I intended. I learn from my mistakes but still believe in my own personal values, where kindness and inclusion is centered in my intentions and my actions.
I keep striving for inclusivity, one tiny step or change at a time, often quite imperfectly but with a whole lot of passion.
I hope you will join me.
Note: This article was originally published on my LinkedIn profile July 2018