The Thrill of Inclusion

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“No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive.” ~ Mohandas K. Gandhi

Being included may not always be thrilling. Yet most of us, I suspect, appreciate being invited and involved.

Basically, inclusive refers to the extent to which we welcome a broad range of backgrounds and interests, taking into account issues of language, ethnicity and culture, gender, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic status and disability (or as a wise blogger taught me, ‘diffability’).

A colleague directs diversity and inclusion programs for a large, global business. I recently heard him speak about the proactive measures his company is taking to integrate and enrich diversity and inclusion, worldwide. What he shared, even though it was specific to the workplace, prompted me to reflect on how we consciously and unconsciously, include and exclude.

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How often do you go out of your way to include people? How frequently (even after-the-fact) do you realize you inadvertently omitted or forget to invite others? Perhaps our knee-jerk response is ‘I always invite others,’ until we see or are reminded of an unintentional exclusion. It happens. Yet it need not happen.

Inclusion connects us to innovation and happiness. It’s true! It invites and allows us to make better decisions about the future when all voices are heard – especially younger and elderly voices.

Embracing diversity can bridge cross-cultural divides. Just think of the last time(s) you found yourself in a different cultural setting. Were you open to experiencing all of the newness or were you inclined to stay within your comfortable cocoon? Did you encourage others to share unique aspects of their lives and thinking or were you too tethered to your own beliefs and norms?

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Take potlucks; potlucks are cool. And they’re making a comeback. The act of gathering with others to eat homemade food has health benefits. Merely inviting a diverse group of people to get together, to enjoy one another’s concoctions and to have a good time can be an amazing way to foster connections and build relationships. Simply because people were included.

Most of us know how to be inclusive and to create more positive environments. What helps to foster inclusivity is when our actions are intentional. If you are interested in simple inclusion starters, here are three for your consideration:

  1. When you have the chance, introduce people. Find that shy individual at a social or networking event and introduce them to someone they don’t know. Invite others into a conversation.
  2. Become a mentor, even if informally. Consider the wide variety of people you interact with, then make an effort to help another person to more openly understand and communicate with others. Think: encouraging action.
  3. Simply smile. People are put to ease at this simple facial cue. Building a rapport with someone, discovering more about them and listening to what they have to say builds trust and inclusiveness. The thrill of a smile can go a long way. πŸ™‚

59 thoughts on “The Thrill of Inclusion

  1. Wow, what an inspiring post. Even before I’d finished reading it a few people came to mind that I hadn’t reached out to in a while, so I contacted them πŸ™‚ And then came back to finish your beautiful and thoughtful article. I like to think I’m inclusive, but I also know I do selfishly exclude, for different ego-based reasons from time to time. Your post has put it in the forefront of my mind, and I’m inspired to do better πŸ™‚ Thank you, Sharon

    • The awareness that you acknowledge doesn’t surprise me, Sharon. πŸ™‚ Kudos for choosing to reach out and reconnect with some people. I’d wager they were as pleased to hear from you as you were to engage them. Thank you for your always thoughtful comments. Stay inspired!

  2. A lovely post Eric! And a great reminder that nurturing diversity is all about inclusion, be it in our private life, in a work place or in the wider world.

    • Thank you and yes, Helen, be it anywhere! Here’s to our intentional efforts to be inclusive. Who knows what doors it may open, connection it might enable or what life it could revitalize! And… it is the right thing to do, yes?

  3. Very interesting and thoughtful article! I am afraid that like many other things, this subject is more complicated. Depends on how and why people include you, sometime, you know that you are not “really” included… smile helps even in that situation πŸ˜‰
    Have a great day.

    • Yes, Helen, it is disheartening the learn that even while some are invited, they may not actually be included. As human beings who understand and are capable of empathy, we can do more to alleviate such situations. Smiles are an amazing reaction and gesture. Here’s to more authentic smiles. πŸ™‚

  4. Pingback: The Thrill of Inclusion | iBourgie

  5. I love that first pic Eric…it speaks volumes about the yearning of inclusion and assimilation.
    While we talk about diversity and the need of inclusiveness, very few people actually make an effort to make others comfortable. The inhibitions are quite natural, comfort zone seems a heaven yet the thrill of inclusion is exhilarating!
    For me, the initiative has to come from the other person. I feel inspired from your words yet I my inner voice reminds me…the moment slips by when the situation arises!
    Thanks for a knocking reminder. πŸ™‚

    • Re: the opening image, we think alike, Balroop. There *are* times when as Andre Agassi once said, Image is everything. πŸ™‚ You are on to something when when you speak to the sad fact that few people actually go out of their way to make others comfortable. Here’s to our being more aware of those next “moments” and making them intentionally inclusive. Thank you for your thoughtful share.

  6. Well said, Eric. We feel the need for inclusion. It’s in our very human nature to be called upon, even if the call interferes with other activities. But to know we are needed, wanted, appreciated — it’s enormously important to the heart and mind. Thank you for putting such great thoughts to words.

  7. Great post. Saving thus to read again later. I’d like to think I’m very inclusive but I’m sure there’s room for improvement. We all get overwhelmed by our own lives that we barely have room for much else, but it doesn’t take great acts that put us out of our way, just dimple things we do as we go about our daily routine. Just something as simple as sharing a smile with someone as you walk by can brighten someone’s day.

  8. You really address this topic beautifully ~ the thrill of inclusion. A perfect title to suit the mood. I’ve always seen inclusion and the need for diversity actually stemming from our biological programming. Take out the cultural bias, and I truly believe differences between people are attractive. Whether these differences are seen as exotic and thus powerfully attractive, or the quest for experiences and learning of life serves at the force of attraction, the result is just as you say – the ‘thrill of inclusion’ and the result is a more diverse set of genetic material in the population. πŸ™‚

    • I like that, Randy: Take out the cultural bias, and differences between people are attractive. Forsooth! I, for one, (and I suspect others) value engaging and creating connections with the very diversity you reference. And if it’s in our biological programming, then it ought to take little effort to embrace it and all people. Thanks for sharing this lovely perspective.

  9. Never has this been more relevant than now, Eric. Cliques/groups/parties whatever you call them—they are usually created as a safe cocoon for people who fear a lot of things – fear of others who are different from you in terms of looks, color, creed, language, disability, ability, even food preference! We as a country need to be more inclusive. After all, diversity is what makes us who we are. Thank you for posting about this.

  10. Agreed, Mary-Ann; this topic and the need for our focus on it is increasingly relevant. If we think about and acknowledge it, our country was built upon (and still is) an enviable melting pot. Where else can we easily access, appreciate and include so much diversity. Your comment is spot-on. Thank you.

  11. You’ve shared a very interesting perspective on how we can extend inclusiveness into our daily lives. I really appreciate that a simple smile can sometimes be as effective as words, especially if the smile is genuine, where words are often not enough. I am very uncomfortable within situations where I perceive some level of exclusion and I do work hard not to be a part of that. But I think it takes focus in our busy daily lives to look up and out from ourselves, so this is such a timely reminder, Eric. Thank you.

    • The distinction between what and when something *is* genuine is truly important, Debra. Thank you for sharing that. All too often we know that inclusion can be superficial, and that can, unfortunately, create a damaging perception of exclusion. It *does* take focus to look up and out from ourselves and when we do this, intentionally, we are in a good way – also looking inward. πŸ™‚ Always appreciate your thoughtful comments.

  12. So many things we can do to make people feel that they are part of the whole.. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts..

    I remember back to when i was a mentor going into schools which was part of a business partnership with education to help students who were let us say struggling and not feeling part of the whole..

    The rewards of seeing them progress and smile again was massively rewarding to see them come out of their shells as they gained confidence within themselves..
    We all of us need to feel included .. Another enjoyable post Eric..
    Wishing you a wonderful week
    Sue

    • Indeed, Sue, there are many actions we can consciously effect to make others feel included. Your time and interest permitting and in addition to the three considerations shared in the post, I would love to learn one or two inclusion practices that you have found to be constructive. Thanks for adding your always relevant insights. πŸ™‚

      • I always found within my mentoring of pupils in schools who were from the ages of 13 to 16 .. Most just wanted someone to listen to.. Without judgement.. They felt teachers were not always on ‘Their side’ As many who were in the mentoring programme were those who played truant. Or had challenging behaviours.

        Some had problems at home and so the bond of gaining ‘Trust’ had to be built within the mentoring and it was no good coming down on them like parents or teachers.. You had to try to get to the core of their problems..

        So’Listening’ often to between the lines of what was being said .. And being approachable and friendly.. Body language is very important.:-)

      • Trust and listening. So very important, Sue. Thank you for sharing these foci as without both being at the fore, authentically, how can we be genuinely inclusive? (asked rhetorically). To your sharing, much of my work involves and requires listening to what is not being said. Often, it can be more revealing that what is uttered. So glad that you have had and learned from your mentoring experiences. Wouldn’t trade them for the world, I bet. πŸ™‚

  13. I work in cross cultural teams and it has mostly been British last few months, with a smattering of Portuguese and Japanese. I have realized what worked with one did not go down well with the other. An open mind and some leeway went a long way in building those networks.

    • So true, Prajakta… having an open mind and some flexibility can do wonders for strengthening connections and relationships — in our personal, social and/or professional lives. You are fortunate to work in a multi-cultural setting and have the awareness that you obviously do. I suspect this contributes to your and your teams successes. Onward! πŸ™‚

  14. Eric, I was blessed with parents who said my brothers and I were already ahead of some children by being born with two parents, having a home, and being not in a minority. So, we got shipped for 1 week to our aunt’s while they marched for civil rights. Three summers in a row, 5 days a week we 3 kids packed up our toys and worked as “asst. teachers” at Head Start (when it was a volunteer program) in the basement of an all black church. My parents paid for a few teens to continue their college education. (Easier when only $1500 to $2000 a year!) Mom was a teacher, Dad worked for NASA. We got jobs in Jr High since Dad believed we should not feel privileged. These things helped us to recognize how to blend in and join together. Although we were lucky, Dad was born into a single mother situation and hitch-hiked to work at age 11 in KY where there were no child labor laws.. I have probably told this story before…
    In other words, to create inclusive people we must start early at awareness. Addressing “head on” the subject openly, answering questions, acting upon inclusion as often with babies on up. I meet many who haven’t a clue how other people live or struggle. How can they truly practice inclusion?
    If parents could choose an integrated preschool, church, camp, organization like Habitat for Humanity or engage in family activities such as Christmas Clearinghouse or soup kitchen. These examples which are not once a year and the perfect one you gave: become a mentor or read in inner city schools. I think one wouldn’t have to give inclusion any thought if it were built into their early childhood

  15. Lovely thoughts, personal experiences and suggestions, Robin. It seems you were blessed with ‘aware’ parents who understood the importance of introducing their children to social realities and to encourage practicing inclusion. To your comment, further, if only we realized the value exposing not just our children but all human beings to the need for ongoing inclusion (not just on special occasions) – who knows the extent to which we would make our world more open, understanding and accepting. Thank you for sharing your poignant perspectives.

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