[EDITOR’S NOTE: Raven Solomon is a keynote speaker at DRJ Spring 2022, March 21, live in Orlando. With this series of articles republished from www.ravensoloman.com, the intention is to challenge the assumption that inclusion is an esoteric principle. Instead, we want readers to see that inclusion can be adopted, implemented, and improved upon as a transformational business resilience strategy.]
Ever wonder how many of us make and actually keep our New Year’s Resolutions? I was curious and went looking. I discovered that after the first week, 75% of us could say we were successful, but that dropped to 71% after two weeks and then 64% after one month. Sadly, six months later, only 46% of us could say we kept our New Year’s Resolutions….and for those of us with similar goals, but no set resolutions, only 4% were successful after six months.
New Year’s resolutions can clearly be hit or miss, but if you’re the type to make and keep them, I have a positive and measurable one I’d suggest adding to your list— embrace and emulate inclusive behavior.
What is inclusive behavior and why it matters
You’ve probably heard the term inclusive culture a million times. You may or may not have heard of an inclusive mindset, and while both topics are essential and worthy of coverage, they are not what I want to talk about. I, instead, want to talk about our behavior.
Because, while an inclusive mindset is the key frame of mind necessary for inclusion, people around us don’t directly experience our thoughts. They experience our behavior. And while an inclusive culture is what many of us desire to see in our workplaces and communities, it is our daily actions that make up the culture we live and work in. An inclusive culture can only exist if our behavior is inclusive in nature. And we know that an inclusive culture increases employee engagement, supports well-being, and creates a sense of belonging for everyone in the workplace.
Examples of Inclusive Behaviors
So, what does inclusive behavior actually look like?
There are many examples of inclusive behavior, but I want to talk about three important ones. The first is using inclusive language, the second is holding space, and the third is actively building cultural competence.
1. Using Inclusive language
Every day as we talk and write, we’re using language, and that language may or may not be inclusive. Using inclusive language is a critical inclusive behavior, as it helps us effectively communicate with more people and become an integral change agent in a more diversified society. Our language should be respectful and inclusive of people across a myriad of difference– gender identity, religion, race, sexual orientation, beliefs, etc. It requires us to avoid assumptions that might exclude people (most of us, including me, don’t mean to do this — but it happens), and instead use words and phrases that allow everyone to feel seen and welcome. A simple example might be speaking and writing in gender-neutral terms like team members, employees, or humankind, instead of guys, ladies, or mankind.
In an effort to use more inclusive language in 2022, I know I’ll be working more diligently to remove five specific non-inclusive words from my vocabulary. You can find out how I plan to do this, and how you can as well, in my upcoming article, “5 Non-Inclusive Words I Am Working to Eliminate From My Vocabulary in 2022”.
2. Holding Space
Another example of an inclusive behavior you could work to embrace in 2022 is holding space (I talk a lot about this concept in my upcoming book due to release this year). A term usually heard in relational conversations, holding space requires being physically, mentally, and emotionally available and present for someone, to allow them to feel safe and heard, particularly during a moment of pain and/or vulnerability. It requires us to play two roles: to witness and validate someone else’s emotional state and yet be simultaneously present to our own.
Connor Beaton, the founder of Mantalks, says, we should think of holding space as a metaphorical bucket for the people we’re interacting with to fill with their thoughts and feelings. He explains that developing awareness and not taking on the emotions of others, listening past your defenses, and validating others are all huge parts of holding space for someone else. While this isn’t easy for any of us at the best of times (I know this all too well), it is a critical inclusive behavior.
When should you look to hold space for others? In so many scenarios! For instance, in the workplace, maybe you hold space for someone who’s experienced a microaggression committed by a manager, or for someone working through stressful events such as downsizing, illness, or an unjustified or unexplainable event or loss. Whether at home, in your community, at work, or in our global society — where feelings are involved, holding space can offer immeasurable comfort and support. As someone striving to be more inclusive, we should particularly look to hold space for those experiencing exclusion, unbelonging, discrimination or any ism.
This brings us to the next inclusive behavior I wanted to share (and a really important one), building cultural competence.
3. Actively building your cultural competence
Our cultural competence, or incompetence, is reflected in our behavior, interactions, views and attitudes in cross-cultural situations. By definition, our cultural competence is how and what we do to acknowledge, accept, and respect differences in other cultures and individuals, be it traditions and practices, appearance, views, gender, race, religion, abilities or anything else. It’s also about our willingness to expand and even teach about celebrating said differences. It’s an important aspect of inclusion for several reasons:
- It helps create a fair and equitable environment for everyone and encourages more inclusive engagement.
- It helps us open our minds to different points of view or walks of life, which in turn helps us empathize and identify better with others.
- It makes it possible for everyone to work together and interact more cohesively.
- It increases our self-awareness and helps us understand and value each other better.
- It even increases our awareness and acknowledgment of societal inequities.
Having this awareness at work can also help broaden the range of skills and views that improve team and company performance. If you’re in a lead role or looking to advance to one, your success largely depends on how well you’re able to understand, respect, and interact with people from all cultures or belief systems — even when they differ from your own.
So, how can you become more culturally competent? By embarking on a journey of self-assessment, actively listening, and exposure.
- Conduct a self-assessment: Start with a Cultural Competency Assessment to help you assess your knowledge, awareness, and skills while interacting with others in diverse social, personal, or work environments. Such assessments can help you identify your strengths as well as areas to focus on in the area of cultural competence.
- Actively listen: Start to listen to others around you more actively. Verbal, nonverbal, written, or visual, we all communicate in unique ways reflective of our lived experience and cultures. By active listening, it allows you to really hear and understand the perspectives of someone else, an important element of cultural competency. This is also where the holding space can come in.
- Seek out opportunities for cultural exposure: This is where you can challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone and take an active interest in the experiences of others. Actively look for opportunities to learn about people with different backgrounds, views, ethnicities, or experiences. This increases your cultural exposure and also allows others, in turn, to learn more about you, making us all more culturally competent.
Remember, if your New Year’s Resolution is to be achievable, it will need to be really rooted in changed behavior, not just a mindset shift. The good news is that these inclusive behaviors are tangible and measurable, making this resolution feasible to successfully achieve. Once you know where you stand on the cultural competency assessment, a great way to continue to measure if your behavior is inclusive is to periodically perform a cultural competence check-in to audit your personal and professional growth.
This New Year, embrace and emulate inclusive behavior and become fully committed to reaching it by doing things such as using more inclusive language, holding space, and actively building your cultural competence. I know this year I will.