"I" is a strange little letter. It stands for me, myself and my ego. And for some of us that makes that little letter ENORMOUS!
It's also globally known as the letter that has the midas touch, or should I say the apple touch, of making everything super cool: "i"Phone, "i"Pad, "i"Pod. It even describes a Generation: the "i"Generation just in case you hadn't noticed.
Romans Emperors, built their empire and developed sophisticated skills to build the Colosseum, Pantheon, Foro Romano using "I" a part of their intellectual mathematical system. Ironically, their number system did not consist of a zero. Maybe the "I"'s ego had a tantrum at the thought of it.
But why am I banging on about this darned letter "I"?
In my world, "I" stands for Inclusion. (Believe me my ego is suffering but I'm working on keeping it under control).
Inclusion, is an incredibly important word of our times. Yet it's a word that is misunderstood, misused, undervalued and fast becoming a casualty of the politic-socio-corporate lexicon, causing fatigue and rolling of eyes - following the rocky path of its soulmate Diversity. It's flung about here and there, without care, without consideration.
And yet if we lived and worked in a world where full, true and deep inclusion was systemic..........need I really say more?
So what is inclusion? What does it look like? How do we know it's present? Can you measure it? Is there an inclusometer?
An inclusometer! How cool would that be! We would just have get up every morning, tap the inclusometer on its crystal case and wait till the the silver hand would tell us that today will be 82° inclusive.
Inclusion is an attitude, an approach, a path to a better "I" - egos around the world prick up your ears.
Inclusion is not about how I feel. Inclusion is about how I make others feel.
A good friend of mine made a comment a few years ago on how to measure Inclusion? She said I can tell you on a scale of 1 to 10 how happy I feel, but I can't tell you how included I feel.
I've spent endless sleepless nights tossing and turning this in my head - well maybe not endless sleepless nights but I have thought about it a lot.
I am really starting to think that the "I" really is at the center of this issue.
It's a bit like the titanium rule? "The what rule?" I hear you cry.
Ever heard of the Golden Rule? Do onto others as you would do onto yourself.
Think about it. That's actually a pretty ego driven approach. You are putting your "I" at the center of how you treat others. You assume that others want to be treated as you would want to be treated.
The Titanium Rule says: Do onto others according to how they would like to be done onto.
Think about it.
So what does it mean to be Inclusive? What does it look like? More importantly, and scarily for many, what does it feel like?
So let's start with the scariest part. How does being Included feel?
It feels that you, as an individual, really belong, where other people show real interest in who you are, where people actually listen to you and where you feel that you are respected. It's where you are seen and regarded as an individual not as a member of a socially constructed group or demographic cluster. Your individuality is valued.
It's also a place where you make others feel as if they really belong, it's a place where you are interested in those around you, it's a place where you are really listening to other people and it's a place where you show respect for those around you. It's where you view others as individuals not as par to a socially constructed group or a demographic cluster. You value the individuality of others.
Imagine a place where you feel treated fairly and you treat others fairly, where you base your relationships on mutual trust and where it's completely safe to have open, at times challenging, conversations. They're even sought after. Imagine a place where you can be your true self - the same person who buys the milk in the local supermarket, the person who tucks their kids into bed at night, the person who celebrates their birthday with friends.
Too touchy feely? Maybe. But let me ask you this. Take a moment and recall a time when you felt excluded. Think about what happened, and how it made you feel. Too touchy feely now?
Take that memory and think of the opposite - that is was inclusion is. That is what it feels like.
Want to take the ego out of "I"nclusion?
- Be intentionally fair, consciously treating everyone with the same set of standards.
- Make judgement calls based on facts gathered from various perspectives not on personal likes/dislikes or one persons point of view.
- Be curious about those around you. Learn more about them.
- Actively, and I mean actively, listen to others.
- Identify and overcome your unconscious biases, both the negative and the positive.
- Empathise, put yourself in the shoes of the others.
- Don't make assumption about others. Ask them.
- Encourage others to speak up and to challenge you.
- Make a concerted effort to involve those who are on the fringes into your conversation or whatever it is that you're doing.
If you have more ideas please let me know.