Caroline Griffiths October 24 2023

How to communicate more inclusively

Dr Brene Brown, author of Dare to Lead, says “To not have conversations (about DEI) because you feel uncomfortable is the definition of privilege”. Whist we can understand the ideology, we also recognise that the fear of saying the wrong thing, being seen as ill informed, or non-inclusive, is real, and can prevent us from having those conversations to avoid offence or creating unintentional conflict regardless of background.

Key questions for many leaders are: 


  • How do we lean into our discomfort around it? 
  • How do we navigate the complexities of the unknown?
  • How do we face the challenge of communication when we are unsure of the boundaries?


Of course, education is the catalyst for change, however; change can be intimidating, especially when it challenges our established beliefs and practices. Embracing DEI can lead to incredible opportunities for success, innovation and growth but this can only be achieved within a culture of psychological safety, open honest dialogue and a spirit of finding our purpose through difference, not in spite of it.


What can we do about it?


This journey starts with: 


  1. Becoming curious: get behind the root of the fear, solicit feedback, build awareness & practice enlightened empathy. 
  2. Education is the catalyst for change - so read up, speak up and invest in learning.
  3. Make it relevant:  Many companies who are excelling in the DEI space are passionate about seeing diversity as an extension or mirror of their markets and the customers and communities they serve.
  4. Build leadership commitment by preparing leaders to role model inclusive leadership behaviours, helping them to understand how they can show up in all aspects of their day-to-day work. 
  5. Promote opportunities for open truth exchange & collaboration. The more regularly different groups are exposed to one another, the quicker the barriers are removed.

Organisations must develop trusting feedback cultures underpinned by truth-telling to enable everyone to lean into the discomfort of where they are at, to understand their true impact and how they make others feel. Help teams to find a safe space to talk openly about their fears, concerns, work them to understand the benefits, values and best practices associate with diversity and inclusion. Promote awareness and enlightened empathy by reducing biases fostering understanding. Fundamentally, this is a quest for open dialogue, which ensures accountability and helps to make speaking up become part of your organisation’s DNA. Speak up strategies have broader effects, in aligning on vulnerabilities, accelerating performance outcomes, and creating unified alignment without dampening diversity, to reduce the fear and develop transparent, transformative interactions as the norm.


When you get diversity and inclusion right, you create a sense of belonging. And belonging at work means you feel seen for your unique contributions, connected to your co-workers, supported in your daily work and proud of your organisation’s values and purpose.


By embracing diverse perspectives, together leaders can create a workplace culture that thrives on curiosity, collaboration, innovation, and problem solving.  

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