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 www.inside-edge-group.com 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.