Inside Out

Being Inclusive

This is a small note on a few things I learned about inclusion recently. For our discussion, we define inclusion as set of behaviors that promote valuing ideas, opinions and actions of everyone around. An inclusive mindset accepts others as a close ally and treats them with respect. I think the ultimate value of inclusiveness is that it brings the best out of everyone.

Safety

In the process of generating clarity, we are trained to form hypothesis and validate them with the observations. This process involves forming quick opinions on which direction to take and equally important which ones to eliminate. We judge and label these paths in our minds.

We forget one key aspect. Our conclusions may not be rational and are obviously colored with our biases. So, when we speak our mind, or in an authoritative position assert a point of view, our conclusions take away the opportunity from our colleagues to explain the rationale behind choices. Instead it creates a psychologically unsafe environment where fight or flight tendencies win over the intellectual abilities.

I learned that a better approach may be to politely ask for a rationale. Make a deliberate attempt to learn instead of conclude. Include the other.

Listening

There is another obstacle that thwarts our deliberate attempts.

Our minds are rarely a single threaded monologue. Instead there is a cacophony of multiple hypothesis trying to prove themselves. Unaware, we try to pursue each thread of thought and play both sides of the game desperately looking for a winning combination. This hurts the real discussion happening in the physical world.

Noise in our heads robs our attention from the events in front of us. We don’t listen. We try to interrupt the speaker because our minds have made their decision even before the speaker finishes. So, a seemingly running dialogue, is actually two independent threads running their own course. Again one thread wins and the other is left incomplete.

The solution is probably one that has been told to us a thousand times. Be present. Focus on the individual in front of you, not you or your thoughts. This is respect.

Understanding

Incompleteness brings us to another interesting aspect. We’re told that the worst discussion is one without a decision. Everyone attends a meeting, we engage for an hour and walk away as if the meeting never happened. Needle doesn’t move. So, the opposite must be awesome, right?

What’s the fastest way to decide? Dictate. Second best? Take a vote. Everybody keeps their opinions in their pocket and display it with one single finger. Yes, or a no. Binary is simple. This may be the only way for large democracies to run.

My reluctance with these two is that they leave the participants incomplete. But, you say, 51% of the participants must be bought in for us to decide, right? Yes, and that’s not good enough. We didn’t give the rest of us an opportunity to share, or learn the rationale. Similarly, none of the 51% even learned why a choice must be the right one. This decision doesn’t add to commitment, nor does it help set us up for the future decisions.

Completeness stems from the feeling of being understood. It requires effort and a lot of patience. In my opinion the solution is not influence, or manipulation, or any such dark magic. It is a simple act of seeing through a communication to its end. Don’t let any dialogue end up abruptly with opinions unheard and doubts lingering.


I have made all of these mistakes. As much as I hate to admit, I still commit them even if unintentionally. This note is an advice to self. To remind me that a human being is much more than a decision or a figment of thought. Being inclusive is respecting them and accepting all that defines who they are.


You're in a happy corner. Take a moment. Breathe. Reflect. Did you hear the sound of silence?

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