What is inclusivity?
By definition, inclusivity is the practice of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized. It is easy to say that you would never want to exclude someone for being different from you, but exclusivity can manifest itself in the smallest of notions. When we think of excluding someone, it is typical to go for the obvious and quite offensive examples. But often, it’s smaller comments or gestures that might give someone that same feeling that they are not wanted or welcome.
When you walk into a new space, if you are not recognized or validated with a bit of communication (verbal or nonverbal), sometimes you can feel a bit invisible and unwelcome. The absence of recognition can often make someone feel excluded but, there are also small things – like someone making rude or unflattering comments about another’s appearance, manner of speech, or clothes – that contribute to the feeling of exclusion or unwelcome-ness. Sometimes it’s not even what people actually say that matters. An off-putting look or prolonged stare can convey negative feelings and create a hostile environment for someone.
During the month of June, (PRIDE MONTH, YES) and frankly all year round, acceptance and inclusivity are exceptional topics of thought that can often lead to the growth and maturing of one’s character. While inclusivity can take many different forms, I’ve found that one of the key elements to help make your environment and yourself more inclusive is an understanding and demonstration of one key trait: empathy.
What is Empathy?
Empathy is really just the acknowledgment of others and understanding their world, feelings, and difficulties. You can practice empathy by greeting someone as soon as they walk into the space you are in. This greeting can be a nod or a “Hey man, how’s it going?”. The recognition of their presence will usually make them feel immediately more welcome and included. You can also take it a step further and get to know this person. By simply listening to how someone’s day is going you are telling them that you care about their world and they are accepted with you and that particular environment. If you notice someone is having a hard day, a way to help them by demonstrating empathy and inclusivity is inviting them to something. Whether it’s a party next weekend or cookies at your apartment to talk, the open invite is another simple easy way to tell someone that you care and accept them as they are.
Including and welcoming people can be a really small part of your day, but it can go a very long way in someone else’s.