Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) do not come easily. They require hard work and often uncomfortable conversations in order to make progress towards our goals and visions for inclusive workplaces. Below are some ways to ease that discomfort.
Ask Intentional Questions
Be intentional about what you ask. Examples of intentional questions can include:
- How can I support you in this space?
- What types of emotions are you experiencing?
- Where are we dropping the ball in this area?
Nelson Mandela said that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Moving beyond your discomfort in the DEI space will require you to do some research. Knowing important DEI topic headlines is a great start, however you much also understand why they are so important. Once you understand the “why”, you will have greater context and understanding of how to create solutions. It can also help you feel more prepared to have these conversations.
We live in a world where everything is so rushed, many don’t stop to reflect on ourselves. Possibly because we are afraid of what we may discover if we do so, but nonetheless, being introspective allows us to search within. To do this, ask yourself questions to reflect on your gut reactions, like: “why am I uncomfortable with using these different pronouns?” or “why don’t I invite my Asian coworker to play poker, like I do the other coworkers?”. This process will allow you to recognize your biases, fears, and maybe even insecurities, breaking down barriers to diversity and inclusion conversations.
Exhibit Genuineness and Own Where You are in Your DEI Journey
It’s okay not to know everything. It’s not okay to act like you do when you don’t. Pride can get in the way of being able to engage in DEI conversations. Having the ability to admit that you don’t understand the topic, or you need some coaching on how to have certain dialogues, allows others to see how genuine you are about getting it right.
Diversity and inclusion aren’t just buzzwords. Recognize that these efforts directly impact people – people who have their own diversity dimensions, experiences, and feelings. Treat this work with the seriousness, curiosity, and attention you would any other major organization initiative.