What comes to your mind when you hear the word inclusion? Do you get the positive or negative vibes at the mention of inclusion?
If you have a person with disabilities in your family, then inclusion is important. If you belong to a different religion from your peers, then inclusion is quite something. If you identify yourself more with the LGBTQIA+ community, then inclusion is a concern to you.
Inclusion is embracing all people regardless of race, gender, disability, medical, or other needs. It entails not only giving equal access and opportunities to all but also removing discrimination and intolerance.
Talking of embracing all people regardless of who they are can be a difficult thing to do. It is especially unrealistic to wait for inclusive behavior from others if you are not inclusive yourself.
Inclusivity starts with you regardless of who you or others think you are.
Here are 5 ways to become more inclusive in your everyday life.
Use Inclusive Language
Language is a huge indicator of whether or not you are inclusive. Language entails your choice of words and how you communicate.
For example, always avoid using gender-specific words such as "ladies" and "guys" when addressing a group. There could be gender non-conforming or mixed-gender individuals who could find that inappropriate and feel excluded in the process.
When airing your views, avoid overly assertive language. This leaves room for questions and allows others to contribute constructively hence achieving inclusion.
Communication also involves your body language. For example, use the right facial expressions when talking to others to allow them to read messages from your body language that correlate with what you are talking about.
Be Cautious of and Challenge Stereotypes
Stereotypes can make you miss your inclusion goals as an individual, colleague, or boss at work. First, identify the stereotypes that you know are preventing you from becoming more inclusive.
Challenge those stereotypes that are deep in your belief and value system that otherwise make you act exclusive and unfair.
For example, learn to observe, listen, and acknowledge other people or situations from an objective perspective. This helps at altering any biases you are likely to have when associating with them.
Ask the Right Questions
Questions have the magic of making you more inclusive. Instead of making assumptions when you first meet someone, ask yourself and others the right questions.
Before talking about something that can be controversial or spark debate, ask yourself if you are informed and can objectively defend your points. Ask others the right questions to help you learn about them, their values, and beliefs- this helps you to compromise if you have to while encouraging inclusion.
Be open-minded when talking to and associating with people. Becoming inclusive is not a one-day affair. It is also not an objective to be achieved.
Becoming inclusive is a process, it is more of a way of life. You have to stay open to what comes in your pursuit of inclusivity.
Being open-minded is also reflected in your conversations and actions. Be sure to ask yourself if your words or actions are inclusive or not.
As an open-minded person, you will be able to negotiate where the need is, research, and adapt to situations as they arise- hence becoming more inclusive.
Develop Your Empathy
Start developing your empathy one step at a time. Remember that the world does not revolve around yourself and never will.
Sheree Atcheson, the Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Peakon talks about developing one’s empathy as a key to being more inclusive. She mentions this about empathy:
“It’s key to remember that intention and impact are two very different things. Just because you are well-intentioned, it doesn’t mean that your impact is good. If you do something that misses the mark, listen to that feedback, be empathetic to that person, and be grateful that they’ve given you this teaching moment so you can do better in the future.”
It is possible to become more inclusive no matter how difficult this can seem at first. Start by understanding that it is not always about you or what beliefs you subscribe to.
Inclusivity is seeing beyond yourself and creating an environment of fair thoughts and actions in your everyday life.
You do not need to hold some influential position in society to become inclusive. Start practicing inclusivity in your day-to-day life with the very small details that you often ignore.
The world needs you to be the change. Start being inclusive one step at a time.
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Thank you and take care!
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Nondiah Khalayi is a Kenya-based Statistics and Programming student at Kenyatta University, a Health Science student at the University of the People, and also a Content Writer at IYOPS. Being an INFJ-T personality, she enjoys a calm life, coding, data analysis, reading, and writing multiple-niche research-based articles.
Inputs and Edits by Sovena Ngeth.