7 Ways to Be More Inclusive in Your Everyday Life

“Diversity without Inclusion is Tokenism”. This is the title of an article on Linkedin by Nova Reid, Diversity, Inclusion & Anti-Racism speaker and consultant.

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash

If Diversity is a fact, Inclusion is an action.

More specifically: Inclusion is a set of measures, both large and small, that can be easily integrated into both the professional realm and into everyday life.

1 / Mindful communication: listen more, talk carefully

Communication is the first aspect to work on. Often, if used inappropriately, our words can express wrong intentions or create misunderstandings.

  • Listening is important. Do not interrupt. Don’t overtalk. Respect the time of the person in front of you, be attentive and sensitive to what interruption, over-talking and over-splaining may involve. To understand this concept better, it’s worth reading the following excerpt from the article “How White People Handle Diversity Training in the Workplace” by Robin DiAngelo:
  • Avoid assertive language and words: Introduce your contribution with “In my opinion” or “According to my experience” or “Based on what I’ve read and learned”. Leave space for questions and replies, make sure you do not lecture when you get involved in a conversation.
  • Do not dismiss or disrespect other people’s contributions. Make sure to be welcoming and open to what they say,regardless of whether or not you are in agreement. By using “I see your point”, “It’s a new perspective to me”, “I understand what you mean, but…”, “I never thought about it that way”.
  • Avoid weird facial reactions. Making faces and expressing immediate feelings through your body language while interacting with others may freeze, discourage, or make your interlocutor uncomfortable. Make sure to remain neutral and think of how you can express agreement or disagreement by simply carrying on the conversation as mentioned above.

2 / Challenge stereotypes

Unconscious biases, prejudices, lack of information, influence of the media, and teachings coming from our cultural and social beliefs may all impact the way that we interact with others. For example, we are often informed by the beliefs and value systems we are exposed to, including through our family and friends and the things we learned at school. These deeply ingrained belief and value systems can also lead to actions and reactions that can sometimes be exclusive and unfair.

  • Can I recognize stereotypical or unconsciously biased aspects in these expectations?
  • What is the goal of the meeting, confrontation, conversation?
  • What is a common interest?
  • What could be my limits in dealing with this situation?

3 / Avoid assumptions

One of the most common mistakes in everyday interactions is to make assumptions.

Assumptions are a difficult starting point because they take for granted that our audience shares the same requirements and experiences as we do.

Although assumptions are often developed unconsciously, it is important to recognize the moment when we apply them in our interactions with others.

  • It is important to avoid assumptions about one person’s identity marks: sexual orientation, ethnic origin, religious affiliation, level of information and education.
  • You can challenge your immediate associations. E.g. Avoid questions like “where are you really from?” as it implies you are making assumptions about people’s origins or nationality.
    Avoid terms like boyfriend or girlfriend, and use the more inclusive term, partner, instead.
  • Avoid making comments about someone’s body or physical traits. Doing so may make people uncomfortable.
  • If you meet a group of people, do not assume there are couples within it. Do not assume familiar relationships or socio-economic backgrounds based on their accessories.
  • Do not assume everyone is equally healthy as you are. Consider disability as invisible as well.
  • If you meet a disabled person, do not assume what they are able or not able to do something.
  • Furthermore, it’s a good practice to avoid expressions like “As you all may know” or “As you all have experienced” or “As everyone knows” and similar.

4 / Ask yourself and others (the right) questions

As you may have understood from the previous points, a fundamental practice to be more inclusive is to ask questions.

Asking many questions helps in the process of awareness and discovery of the other, but it is also important to ask the right questions.

What does that mean?

  • How might my positions and beliefs be limited and/or limiting when approaching those of others?
  • Am I informed or educated enough on a given topic?
  • Is my opinion required? How does my intervention contribute to the conversation?
  • By using my language, am I really giving space to everyone to participate in this conversation?
  • By using my body language, am I really giving the chance for everyone* to feel safe and comfortable in joining the conversation?

If you think that the questions to yourself do not lead to much, try to involve someone who, in your opinion, can help you.

Before asking questions, make sure that the person you are asking feels comfortable and agrees to talk about the topic or answer certain questions.

5 / Be aware of your privileges

Talking about privileges can be difficult and often very uncomfortable.

A privilege can be defined as “a right, license, or exemption from duty or liability granted as a special benefit, advantage, or favor” (“Diversity and Social Justice — A glossary of working definitions”).

Privileges are social, political, and cultural constructions that are translated into hierarchical relationships in our everyday and professional lives. Part of a broader system, these constructions are solidified through structural and institutional dynamics, and they serve to reinforce fabricated societal divisions based on perceived or constructed divisions and/or pretenses.

Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge how this system of privileges works and also where we position ourselves within it.

We also need to consider how this position may affect individuals situated in less privileged positions, according to the same system.

6 / Be proactive in educating yourself on the topic

Critical Race Theories, Disability Studies, Queer Theories, Gender and Women’s Studies, Feminist Critic, Psychology, Antrhopology, Sociology, Medicine and further disciplines are constantly researching about Diversity, Inclusion and Equality.

Don’t wait for the people affected by the problem to show you how to be better. Everyone is responsible for improving their own reality, everyone has the power to change things and learn how to make the world more livable and sustainable for everyone. Doing your part by educating yourself proactively is a fundamental step to becoming a supportive ally.

Working collectively and feeling part of a community with common goals leads to more effective and suitable results for all.

7 / Stay open, stay curious, and do not fear mistakes

Becoming and remaining inclusive is a process, not an objective to be achieved. As in all processes, it is important to remain open and curious, to continue looking for opportunities to learn about various topics. To remain open and curious means, above all, to attract people and situations that allow us to challenge (both in a positive and negative way) our beliefs and our cultural and personal patterns.

However, it is important to remember that, as with every process, not everything comes immediately.

It is not always easy to question one’s own patterns and change behaviours. Therefore, it is not always a linear path. Taking the risk of becoming better for oneself and for others means not being afraid to make mistakes and not being afraid of feedback. Instead, feedback — both from our own reflections and from those around us — is a vital tool in teaching us how to become more inclusive both in the present moment and in the future.

Margherita | FairForce is a Feminist-Informed transformation coaching and community strategy for purpose-driven humans and organizations