This post is the second in a series about language related to diversity and inclusion, with the goal of de-stigmatizing certain terms and reducing the possibility for contention and misunderstanding. Look for more in this series to improve your ability to have more meaningful, constructive, and relaxed conversations on inclusion topics.
In the previous post in this series, I explained the importance of understanding certain terms often used in discussions about race and racism. Specifically, I discussed how the terms anti-racism, implicit bias, micro aggression, and racial privilege play a role in the workplace and how they can foster a greater understanding of what these terms mean and why they’re important.
Now that we’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to put it all into practice! In order to build a more inclusive, anti-racist work environment, it's vital to learn how to check our implicit bias and modify unconscious, everyday behaviors. By clicking on this post, you’ve already taken a step in the right direction. Here are some steps you can take to start navigating discussions on race and anti-racism with greater awareness and facility:
- Read the first post in this series! It is a good starting point for understanding important language and framing the behaviors I suggest below.
- Training: Seek out continual anti-bias, anti-racism, and inclusion trainings. This can include formal classes, webinars, coursework, and/or workshops.
- Do the homework: The first step, as we've described, is to gain a better understanding of racism's role in the workplace and how to monitor yourself and others for racial implicit bias. From there, you'll be able to identify and improve on your areas of weakness or ignorance by seeking out additional resources yourself. Entertainment such as blogs, books, music, and podcasts can make this process a lot more fun – and they're a great way to learn!
- Slow down: It's natural to react instinctively during tense situations because our brains jump into "fight or flight" mode. But to recognize when implicit bias takes over, we must pause and reflect both on our emotional reactions and the reasoning behind our decisions. If it doesn't feel a little uncomfortable, slow yourself down even more.
- Practice reflective listening: Most people think of how they want to respond as the other person is speaking. Reflective listening is the practice of breaking that habit by limiting your response to simply confirm that you have understood the message. For example, you might say "I am sorry you went through that" or "That sounds like it was challenging" instead of providing your personal insight or offering suggestions. This will both help your associates feel heard and give you time to pause and reflect (see above) before sharing any further thoughts or questions.
Of course, we cannot solve these problems overnight. But if we all work actively to understand our own biases and take the steps needed to modify our own behaviors, we can better support everyone's needs and start to reap the benefits of an inclusive workplace. Each step towards building these bridges is a good step.