There is a sense of power in individuality and identity, a power which leads to control, dependency, and objectification of people as subjects. Social status, categorizing groups of people, and individuation all contribute to the subjugation of people. Power and control become the implicit nature of identification and is realized in the subjectification of codified lifestyles defining those who are “in” and those who are “out”.
Tribal identification, the “in” group, provides a sense of belonging and control in aesthetically pleasing communities. These communal categories further protect members from violations to the codes that threaten the tribal law of truth. Members are a simulacrum of the tribe.
Ask someone the question “Who are you?” and almost immediately the conversation turns to gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, or some other segregating category. The innate need for a sense of belonging forces identification with one or more groups or tribes.
Appropriate appearance maintains status in the tribe, and controlling powers limit disruptions to the status quo. Violations of the tribal ethos act as an affront on the security of the tribe and are promptly challenged.
Unnatural barriers discriminate against those who are other, differentiating conflicting tribal characteristics. Majority rule becomes the prejudiced reality.
The majority holds power and controls the environment. The marginalized are forced into compliance or rejected. There are those in the majority tribes who want to include outsiders, who extend a message of openness. Others extend vailed microaggressions designed to correct behavior or target a characteristic.
Inclusivity is not a characteristic of a tribe. Inclusivity is the intentional invitation to the marginalized, not to become but to belong. Inclusivity is the normalization of coexistence. The marginalized do not have to change to be included. The including tribe transforms in the diversification of expanding influence.
Take, for example, the conservative Christian proposition to people who are LGBTQ+ to abandon their lifestyle for a more suitable lifestyle. The obvious dilemma is who defines the suitable lifestyle, the inviter or invitee?
There are those in the Christian community who are adamantly opposed to the behaviors exclusive to LGBTQ+ people, and believe the two tribes are incompatible. There are those in the LGBTQ+ community who also believe the two tribes are incompatible. However, there are those of us in the middle who want to be transformed by expanding our influence to experience the beauty of our diversity.
Here are three things you can do or encourage to create fully inclusive environments.
Respect the perspectives of others
Nobody perceives the world the same way you do. Your experiences, emotions, and mental models contribute to unique perceptions of reality. Professor of psychology at Princeton University, Philip Johnson-Laird, identifies mental models as the complex interrelated connections of knowledge and other causal attributes that shape our perceptions of reality. The way you understand the world around you is not the same way someone else understands the world. Invite others to share their perspectives without judgment. When you are able to respect and understand the perspectives of others you position yourself to understand your own biases more fully. Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself. What is it that I don’t yet understand? What is the emotional truth this person is experiencing? What is this person’s objective reality?
Engage in open and supportive dialogue
Communication is the process of coming to a shared understanding through a common experience. Open and supportive dialogue is not about arguing over who is right and who is wrong. Open and supportive dialogue is about engaging someone else to come to a new understanding. You may want to ask yourself, am I listening to what this person is trying to tell me, or am I listening to my voice of judgment? Your voice of judgment is your internal broadcasting system, your mental model, that limits your perspective out of fear. You might ask yourself, what stubbornness or judgment am I holding on to? Once you identify the message your voice of judgment is conveying, you can eliminate judgment and listen intently to what someone else is trying to tell you. Active listening is the most important facet of communication. For more on listening refer to Listening 101 (hyperlink to https://conversationsonthefringe.com/2010/07/29/listening-101/). Another important facet of communication is language. The language you use will contribute to or hinder the dialogue process. You might want to reflect on how the other person might receive the words you are using.
Intentionally create an atmosphere of inclusion
Inclusivity is an intentional decision to adjust your current reality and engage a new reality. The first step to intentionally create an atmosphere of inclusion is to understand what is really going on. Respecting the perspective of others and open dialogue begin by removing yourself from the center of your universe. It’s not about you! In fact, as long as you make it about you there is no chance of including others. Ask yourself, at this moment, what is my aim? What’s really going on? If your answers to these questions reveal an agenda or motivation to address something in the other person you are making yourself the center of your universe. Be self-reflective. Self-awareness means you understand your feelings, your perspectives, and your orientation to the present moment. You begin to realize you are not the center of the universe. You open yourself to greater possibilities of inclusion because you aren’t afraid of what may are may not happen. You can create an atmosphere in which other people can contribute. Intentionally remove yourself from the center, and learn from the marginalized.
Tony Clyde is a veteran leader with over 20 years of experience working with children, adolescents, and adults in non-profit and corporate sectors. Tony is an expert at helping people recognize and remove the personal barriers holding them back. Through mentoring, training, and coaching Tony helps people and organizations achieve their true potential.
Tony is an entrepreneur, launching several new programs, and consulted with churches and other organizations on starting new programs, using technology, teaching effectively, and leadership. Tony is launching a new project called the Throwing Stones Project. The Trowing Stones Project partners with organizational leaders to facilitate environments of full inclusion for people who are LGBTQ+. Tony is a graduate of Northwest Missouri State University with a Master’s in Education and is in progress on a doctorate in organizational leadership. Tony’s specialty is in authentic leadership, personal coaching, and creativity.