What does being inclusive mean to you?
Respecting Britain's array of cultural days? Calling out prejudice? Supporting organisations that campaign for equity?
This is great, but it's only part of the picture.
To be truly inclusive you need to challenge yourself by dismantling some of your learned skills - which go back to childhood - and rebuild them in a way that's genuinely more flexible and open.
Basically, you need to learn how to suspend judgement and manage your thoughts. It's not easy and it's a skill that takes a while to develop, if this is new to you. That's absolutely OK! You need to start somewhere.
You should approach the situation with curiosity and a willingness to listen without judgment.
This is really important for anyone who wants to tell more inclusive stories, build better community connections, or create communications that a wider range of people will engage with.
How do you re-route your thoughts so you don't jump to conclusions - which can trigger anger, confrontation and such like?
Below are a few techniques you can use to make more space for other people's points of view, enabling you to understand them better and apply that in your work.
Disclaimer: I'm writing this based on my own and friends and colleagues' experiences, which are also mirrored in the numerous articles and books I've read on the topic. But this article isn't a replacement for an expert in mindset change.
1. Acknowledge your own biases
We all have them because we're human but recognising our biases is essential to understanding how they may influence our interpretation of events and other people's behaviour. Examine your personal experiences, cultural background, and social conditioning that may shape your perspective.
2. Active listening
Give your full attention to the other person's perspective without interrupting or formulating your response while they're still speaking. Seek clarification and ask open-ended questions to gain deeper insights. If you feel yourself heading down 'Assumption Alley', silently say: 'stop'.
Practicing this when engaging with the news (which is usually provocative) will help you get into the habit of managing your thought process.
Put yourself in the other person's shoes and try to understand their thoughts, feelings and experiences from their point of view. Imagine how you would feel if you were in their situation. If you struggle with this don't worry, it may come over time if you conciously make efforts to see things from others' perspectives.
"We have far more united and have far more in common, than that which divides us." - the late Jo Cox MP.
4. Seek common ground
The above quote from the late Jo Cox MP's maiden speech, sums up how I feel about inclusion. I see no reason to exclude others because they may look or behave slightly differently to me. Identify areas of agreement or shared experiences despite your differing perspectives. This can help build rapport and foster a more open dialogue and build respectful relationships.
5. Consider multiple perspectives
Recognise that there may be multiple valid perspectives on the same issue. Avoid limiting your understanding to only one viewpoint. If you're feeling vulnerable or very uncomfortable, and need to pause or stop the conversation, you can do so with respect and honesty.
6. Don't react, but do respond
Encourage open and respectful communication with others, even when you disagree. Be aware of your reactions. When feeling edge it's easy to lash out or use language accidentally which is inappropriate, dismissive or hurtful. Don't say anything until you have thought about your response. Again, you can practice this skill when engaging in films, documentaries, etc. It's a valuable skill for life!
7. Be willing to learn
Embrace the opportunity to learn from others' perspectives and experiences. Expand your understanding of different cultures, backgrounds and ways of thinking. I promise that you'll begin to see our society through a new lens - you can choose to be excited by this change.
8. Reflect on your growth
As the world is never still, the inclusivity journey demands that you never stop learning. Regularly reflect on your efforts to see other people's point of view. Identify areas for improvement and continue to challenge yourself to expand your perspective.
It's a lot! And I appreciate that if this is a new way of thinking you'll need time to digest it.
I recommend giving mindfulness a try as it's great for teaching you how to pay attention to your thoughts while also suspending them.
Need more help with inclusive storytelling and ESG communication? Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.