Learn how to become a more active participant in DEI discussions without increasing polarization.
Strength of Opinion is an important aspect of your motivation to address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) topics. It reflects how much emotional energy you have to engage in conversations related to inclusion and how confident you are in your personal conclusions about DEI. If you don’t have a strong opinion about DEI topics, commit to learning more about the dynamics that contribute to inclusion and exclusion so you can become a more active participant in DEI discussions.
When you do have strong opinions about DEI, you are more likely to be passionate about contributing to inclusion discussions. Strong proponents of DEI are champions of inclusion. There are also employees who strongly oppose DEI and vocally communicate their concerns of DEI as a threat to fairness. Regardless of your point of view, it is important to share your beliefs without belittling those with a different point of view. Any healthy and productive conversation that seeks to shift the mindsets of others requires active listening, patience and a willingness to engage without judgment; otherwise you risk increasing polarization and deadlock.
One challenge may be a lack of exposure to diverse perspectives, which can limit your understanding of the experiences of colleagues from different backgrounds and make it difficult to build opinions informed by the real experiences of others. Another barrier may be discomfort or fear in discussing sensitive topics, such as race or gender. These can be due to a lack of objective knowledge, fear of saying the wrong thing, or fear of being judged by others. A strongly held opinion that is not informed by the experiences of others shuts down conversations and contributes to further polarization.
A strong opinion is a positive attribute only when it is moderated by a more complete understanding of the broader dynamics around DEI. It’s important to seek out diverse perspectives and engage in open and respectful conversations to advance your knowledge about DEI. This can include reading articles or books on DEI topics, attending DEI training sessions, and actively seeking out the perspectives of colleagues from diverse backgrounds. It’s also important to inquire and listen actively to the very real experiences of others, especially about exclusionary experiences that you, yourself, have not encountered.
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