On Friday, October 7th, Emani Richmond shared with us how we can be mindful about inclusive communication.
Emani began the presentation by sharing that we must use somatic practices in order to engage in inclusive thinking. Somatic practices allow us to listen to what our bodies are telling us and then allows us to use that wisdom to pivot. She began our session with reminding us to think about our posture and hydration as we prepared to learn.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) have been very popular topics for several years, but came to the limelight during 2020 when social justice came to the forefront of challenges that we were facing during the pandemic. Organizations instantly put out statements, hired DEI staff and began the journey of trying to become inclusive entities. However, diversity is often easier than the inclusion portion of our initiatives. In order to create the inclusive environment, you must seek the four outcomes below:
- Build a framework of trust
- Understand cultural dimensions
- Become vulnerable and comfortable with self-disclosure
- Articulate steps to inclusion
Our ability to share with others information about our cultural backgrounds and challenges allows us to build empathy and deepen our connections. This ties to the social penetration theory developed in 1973 by Doctors Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor that states as relationships develop, communication moves from relatively shallow, nonintimate levels to deeper more personal ones.
We also must understand that diversity and inclusion are different. Just because you achieve diversity doesn't mean automatic inclusion will follow. Diversity is based on the identities we carry and the differences around us. Inclusion comes into play when the different groups individually feel they can be their authentic selves and fully participate in all aspects of their lives and feel valued for doing so.
So how do you present your authentic self and incorporate the culture of who you are with the culture of companies and communities you serve? You must be self-aware. You have to know who you are, be aware of your biases, be mindful of what you say and try to build an understand of others through listening. You have to use authentic and informed communication and seek out opportunities to practice. The barriers to success in this are often tied to fear of self disclosure, mistaking diversity for inclusion, fear of failure and group think.
This doesn't mean we won't slip up on our journey to understanding or that those around us will fall in line as we progress, but we must learn how to hold each other accountable in a way that is educational rather than punitive. We need to call in the person when they say or do something perceived as offensive instead of calling them out putting them in a defensive mode. If a person shows effort from learning then we can allow for grace to happen.
At the end of the day, each person's differences, life experiences and challenges they have had to overcome create better opportunities and bring more ideas to the table than if we try to make everyone the same. Embrace diversity, learn about each individual, be open to hard conversations and inclusion will begin to happen.