The Power of Inclusion

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Right now we are at a crossroad of division and isolation. The senseless murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others has exacerbated division across our country, while the COVID pandemic has intensified loneliness and isolation with the need to stay safe at home, reducing contact with loved ones, and resorting to impersonal, masked encounters in public spaces.

We are at a crossroad that must be resolved to heal wounds, repair wrongs, and restore humanity.

There’s been a lot of talk about racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion. As there should be. Black people, LatinX, Immigrants of Color, Native Americans, BIPOC, GSRM, LGBTQIA+, and every other group of people who have been oppressed, repressed, and depressed have seen and heard enough from corporate America, the American government, and privileged white people everywhere about what they say they should (or will) do about racism and equality in society and in the workplace.

The problem is that all of this talk about the “need for change” is not enough. In fact, it’s probably not even helpful to the cause. Talk is just talk; what we need right now is action in our schools, in the workplace, in the government, and on the streets where we meet each other every day.

Now, I can’t speak to the actions we can take in the government or in our schools, but I can speak to what we can do in the workplace and in our daily lives. Those two places are vibrant and bustling with activity and are craving the need for inclusion.

Most of the time when we think about making change (particularly in the workplace), we start with training. When we need to develop new skills that is a good place to start.

But in the case of inclusion, training just doesn’t work. Look, I’m a trainer and I’m telling you training people on how equity and inclusion work and how it benefits the organization just doesn’t stick. (At least not with the ones it was intended to stick.)

When training is implemented, the folks at the top (mostly white men) just aren’t moved by the training (nothing changes). The interesting thing is that people of color and women are moved to action from this very same training.

Those people re-recognize the need for social and economic change and are inspired to speak up and act after receiving such training. The ones who are oppressed make the noise, while the ones in power simply look at it as annual, mandatory training they need to do just to stay compliant.

But why?

Training implies that we don’t know something and must be instructed or taught how to do something.

Training doesn’t address the internal thoughts, beliefs, dialog, and for you coaches out there, THE ENERGY,  we all have regarding a certain subject.

Training is something we HAVE to do, is mandated by corporate, or from a school or certifying agency.

The way we get to real change in our minds and in our hearts is through three things: learning, experience, and practice.

Let’s look at the first step to real change: learning.

Learning is something that we explore of our own volition, in our comfort zone, with subjects we find interesting, with the hope of gaining knowledge, improvement, or maybe even advantage.

Learning is growing. Learning is expanding. Learning is maximizing potential.

So how do we “do” learning? We read things outside our comfort zone, like books written by Black authors, watching Black written and directed films. We learn from watching other people in their environments being themselves.

Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing was one of the first, if not the first, film to portray the Black community and Black people in a way white people had never really seen before…unless they were from Brooklyn, Harlem, or the Bronx…or possibly some small Southern town where Blacks and whites lived and went to school together.

So learning is basically expanding your horizon and exploring new cultures and communities.

But learning is not enough.

The next step is experience. But how do we get experience in culture that is not familiar to us?

We do it by putting ourselves in contact with people that are unlike us. It can be as simple as talking with an introvert when you are an extrovert, or asking a rival sports fan what they like about their team, or asking someone from a different background or country what it is like in their home country and how does it feel to live here in America.

When we do this, we share with others our curiosity for their point of view, their way of life, their goals, their values, and their dreams.

And if we expect to make any meaningful change in the world, we need to practice.

Practice means doing the work, not just by yourself, but with others. I call it practice because you might not get it right the first time or the next time or the next hundred times. But keeping silent and not practicing is hurtful to others and actually perpetuates division and isolation.

But putting yourself in a space of practice shows that you care about another person, that you want to see them succeed, and that you want to be a partner in their deserved desire to be included.

So what does practice look like?

It comes in so many forms and styles. Practicing inclusion can be as simple as listening to another person’s perspective without trying to explain your point of view. Practicing inclusion can be hearing someone’s opinion and not shooting it down or trying to share our own opinion. Practicing inclusion can be simply being with someone fully and listening to them without judgment, without the need to insert your feelings or thoughts, without trying to hurry the conversation along.

When we take the time to be truly curious about others, to know where they come from, to learn what was it like growing up, what it is like for them right now, to hear about their dreams, and their greatest accomplishments, we begin to create a sense of belonging.

Belonging is the opposite of division and isolation.

Belonging is the feelings of love and support and purpose and value.

Belonging is being connected to others without judgment, without agenda, and without a need to prove one’s worth.

The Power of Inclusion begins with the sense of belonging.

Your Mindful Moment:

When we know we are worth something to someone, we feel like we belong. Make a difference in someone’s life today and make them feel like they truly belong.

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