by Stacey Kole
Okay, it’s time to talk real. Everyone knows what it’s like to feel excluded (newsflash: it’s far from fun). But somehow that doesn’t stop us from consciously — or, more likely, subconsciously — shutting people out. Inclusivity may be a current buzzword, but intentionally being open to others who aren’t like you is much more than some passing trend.
Creating an inclusive culture in every aspect of life is critical not only because it’s the right thing to do (it is!), but also because studies show that those who practice inclusivity are better off emotionally. And, friends, couldn’t we all stand a little bit more of that? So check out a few ways of making inclusivity and diversity radiate through all aspects of life.
In Your Social Life
Let’s face it — it’s just human nature to gravitate to those who are like you and to steer clear of those who are not. Your motivation may not be malicious, but the result is the same. At best, you deprive yourself of seriously cool experiences, and at worst, you hurt someone else. So if you notice you tend to avoid striking up a conversation or sitting next to someone who looks different than you, start engaging. Ask questions. Try to find commonalities. Maybe you both like the same sports team or frequent the same vacation spot. (Hawaii anyone?!) And if you don’t have anything in common? That’s okay, too. You’re opening your horizons, which studies show leads to a more creative mind-set and better decision-making and problem-solving skills. Gotta love that.
In Your Career
First, stop making assumptions about those who are different than you at work. Maybe your coworker is a mom of three, and you naturally assume she’s too busy to help you with an after-hours project. After all, she’s got dinner to fix, baby spit up on her blouse and a mountain of laundry, right? Don’t assume. Ask! She may not want the opportunity you’re offering to pass her by. Assumptions are deadly because they stifle advancement and lead to misunderstandings and biases. Think your coworker doesn’t want to attend a party because of religious reasons? Once again, ask! Even if you end up being right, you’ve still opened the door and made them feel welcome.
In Your Buying Habits
Inclusivity also extends far beyond who we choose to interact with on a day-to-day basis, and even seemingly small decisions about where you’re spending a night out or picking up a cute new dress can have a huge impact. Supporting a small business with a mission that resonates with your values instead of a big-box store is the 21st century’s version of frequenting a mom-and-pop store. Granted, in this day and age it may be an online retailer (like us here at Common Assembly!), but find out about the companies you support. If it’s a clothing company, see if they use models in all shapes, sizes and colors. Or when you’re holiday shopping, evaluate whether or not a business shows inclusion and diversity in their promotions and offers. Interestingly, roughly 70 percent of millennials say such practices will influence their buying habits. Sounds like a great train to jump on!
Creating an inclusive culture shouldn’t be left to politicians and doctoral theses — not when we have the power to make small changes in our social lives, at work and even with our shopping habits. Sure, you may have to have a few hard conversations with yourself and you may have to step outside of your comfort zone. But that never hurt anyone! Plus, it’s something we all could stand to do a little bit more of…and then reap the rewards together.
Stacey Kole was managing editor of the national beauty and style magazine Savvy and is currently a freelance writer and editor based out of Phoenix, Arizona.