Inclusive Language – More than just a word game: A guest blog from Beverly Jurenko

As a diversity consultant and trainer, I do provide a workshop titled “Diversity of Language and Communications.” People from different backgrounds, cultures, countries and even generations have different styles of communicating, which can often complicate optimal business communications. Recently I connected with DEI practitioner and executive coach Beverly Jurenko, Inside Edge Consulting LLC, who shared this excellent resource with me.

What comes to mind when you hear the term “Inclusive Language?” For some, it’s an opportunity. For others, an annoyance. Objectively. inclusive language is a powerful tool that demonstrates our way of being with others. Once you understand it, and teach yourself to use it, you will see the positive way we can impact others with it.

So what is inclusive language? Inclusive language is a form of communication that uses words, phrases, expressions, metaphors, and sentences that are welcoming to everyone. It avoids incorporating assumptions that may exclude people so that no one feels left out. We are all different, and there are many dimensions of diversity. Everyone’s voice is important.

Inclusive language encompasses emails, messages, marketing materials, social media, cards, websites, and other forms of communication, such as imagery. Sometimes the use of language that is not inclusive is intentional, but it is also often inadvertent. Bad intentions are not always present in the heart of the person who used language that excluded someone.

Inclusive language is important because when we communicate, we want to be effective. We want to reach our audience, whether we are speaking to someone we saw in the cafeteria, or giving a presentation at a conference. We want to engage people, not turn them away, because when we tum them away, they close their ears and they may not absorb the rest of all the important things we want to say. When we work to be aware of our differences, and promote inclusion in our language, we show sensitivity and respect to others. Here are a few examples:

• When talking about disability issues, lead with the “person” first. Try saying “the man with a hearing disability” rather than “the deaf man,” because people with a disability want to be known as a person first, and not only for their disability.

• When referring to groups or work roles, avoid gender specific terms. Say “chairperson” rather than “chairman,” because the chair is not always going to be male. Try out “Hello everyone” instead of “Hello ladies and gentlemen,” because not everyone identifies as male or female.

• Avoid using words or terms like “blacklist” that imply a color associated with a group of people is undesirable.

• If discussing groups and subgroups that relate to majority/minority sets, use the term “typical” rather than “normal,” because who wants to be tagged the opposite of normal (abnormal) simply by being a member of a smaller group?

• If struggling to embrace the “why” in all of this, I encourage you to think about this quote from a 19th century theologian named Tryon Edwards:

Thoughts lead on to purposes;
Purposes go forth unto actions;
Actions form habits;
Habits decide character;
And character fixes our destiny.

Words are powerful, and being inclusive in your speech makes people feel more comfortable about being themselves when they are around you. Inclusion lowers stress, which brings out the best in us. It takes only a very small amount of effort to use inclusive language, and the benefits abound. Just give it a try, and then watch how people around you bloom, grow, and seek to be in your presence.

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Beverly Jurenko (MBA, certified DEI practitioner, and member of the International Coaching Federation) supports people to build a world filled with inclusion so everyone can shine. Through Inside Edge Consulting LLC, she provides Leadership and Career Coaching and Diversity Equity & Inclusion Consulting. Schedule a free 30-minute Discovery Session online at to learn more about how you can embrace inclusion, leverage compassion, and inspire others. You can email her at [email protected], and follow her on lnstagram at @beverly.insideedge.coaching.

“The Mother Factor: Acceptance Works Both Ways” with Rick Miller, Gay Sons and Mothers

It was wonderful to meeting some of my fellow “Gay Sons and Mothers” board members in person!

NOTE: link to view this referenced TEDx talk is at the bottom of this blog.

I am honored and pleased to now be serving on the board of a relatively new nonprofit, “Gay Sons and Mothers,” founded by Rick Miller, a psychotherapist, author and public speaker. Gay Sons and Mothers is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that chronicles the complex emotional bond that exists between gay sons and their mothers. The project was begun by founder Rick Miller in 2016 and Gay Sons and Mothers was formally organized in December of 2018.

Through interviews and the use of multimedia, Gay Sons and Mothers documents personal stories about the defining qualities of this unique relationship. We highlight how this special connection has the power to increase the overall acceptance of gay sons and their families, communities, and peers. Do read my initial blog introducing this organization.

In June, 2022, Rick invited all the board members to attend TEDx Provincetown, where he was one of eight inspirational speakers on a wide range of fascinating topics. In addition to hearing Rick, it was great to meet several of my fellow Gay Sons and Mothers board members in person.

Rick Miller giving his talk at TEDx Provincetown

Rick’s talk was titled, “The Mother Factor: Acceptance Works Both Ways.” What is so fascinating is that Rick is perhaps the first person to do extensive research on how a mother’s role is so critical to every person’s life, even as adults.

Here are some key points from Rick’s talk:

A mother is the person who has the greatest impact on her gay son’s psychological well-being. The main trait in healthy gay men is that they had mothers who just accepted him and let him be who he wanted to be. If that meant playing hopscotch or loving to wear glitter, she didn’t stop him.

Up until the mid to late ’70s, the medical and mental-health communities blamed mothers for “making their sons gay.” Imagine how a mother felt receiving these messages – from her husband, doctor, or clergy back then.

You’d think that mothers wouldn’t accept their sons for being different, yet there were many accepting mothers who simply ignored what they were being told – and privately followed their own intuition.

When a mother is supportive of her gay child, magic happens. Their bond is frequently private, unspoken, and even unrecognized, while they both experience a sense of togetherness.

Rick closed his talk with some important points on how all of us should think of and treat our mothers:

• First, step out of viewing your mother just as your mom. Instead recognize that she is a whole person, and give her the acceptance that she deserves. Instead of focusing on her weaknesses or what she didn’t do, also focus on her strengths and what she did well.

• Then, appreciate that she grew up in her own imperfect world, in a family system with vulnerabilities that existed long before you were even born.

• And recognize that how your mother was parented became the model of how she parented you. Maybe she did the best she could!

• If you want to be fully appreciative of your mother, do your best to let go of your grudges.

• If your mother is still alive, and you both have the opportunity to speak to each other about your experiences, why not do so while you can?

• And if she is no longer alive, remember, your relationship continues inside… and there is no expiration date on acceptance or forgiveness!

In an ideal world, mothers are seen as the emancipators, but now it is up to you- to turn the tables and emancipate her.

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You can now watch the 10-minute talk on Youtube using this link!!