We all want to play a role in helping our society and workplace to improve diversity, equity and inclusion. But that can be a difficult task. How do you create an environment where our differences are celebrated? How do you change long-held beliefs and biases?
Having effective conversations around diversity and inclusion, requires a level of honesty that can make people uncomfortable and cause many to worry that it will lead to unnecessary crucial conversations. To get there, we have to be willing to have brave conversations that change hearts and minds.
Why Should We Have Diversity Conversations?
Did you know that 67 percent of job seekers want to work for a diverse and inclusive employer?
Opening the floor to challenging topics encourages employees to voice their thoughts and be heard in a way they may have never experienced before. It provides opportunities to implement practical, progressive activities that build a more inclusive environment.
And, by putting that feedback loop in place today, you’ll attract new talent to grow the business for tomorrow.
It’s important work. Here’s how to make it happen.
When starting a cross cultural conversation, there are two main things you need to consider:
1) Set Ground Rules
Your first step is to set the ground rules. Provide a framework for considerate and open dialogue, ensuring all team members feel safe and respected. Having a set of agreed-upon rules up front creates a social contract that you can point to during times of heightened tension.
2) Maintain safety in the conversation
All of the skills in Crucial Conversations are designed to accomplish these two tasks. Maintaining safety is hard enough when two people come from the same culture. It becomes even more complex when people come from a different culture. The reason is that people from different cultures tell themselves different “stories” about the behaviour of others. Using active hand gestures while I speak might be seen as passion in one culture and coercion in another.
How do you solve this problem? First, by holding the right conversation. Don’t just talk about “content” (key issues you need to address). If you are aware that there could be cultural differences, you should pause occasionally and talk about those differences. Talk about your differing patterns of behaviour. Ask people how you are coming across. Encourage them to give you feedback about behaviours that might make it difficult for them to engage with you around crucial topics. Ask them what various patterns of behaviour on their part mean to them.
3) Engage in and encourage the free flow of meaning.
Second, when you are digging into crucial conversations about content, watch for signs that the conversation is not working. Watch for marked changes in others’ behaviour or facial expressions. If, for example, they are usually expressive but become silent, you can bet that safety might be at risk. They may be interpreting your behaviour as violent when you intend it as something much different. Or, if they become louder than usual, again this is a sign that safety could be at risk and you should step out of the conversation and talk about the conversation. Again, ask for feedback about how you’re coming across—either now or later when it might be safer.
Working across cultures requires the same two sets of regular conversations that working to build any sort of strong relationship requires. The first is healthy crucial conversations about key issues (content or relationship). The second is regular crucial conversations about how to correctly interpret your differing behaviours (pattern).
The reason for the first kind of conversation is obvious. But the need for the second is less so. Many people fail to help their colleagues or loved ones correctly interpret the intent and meaning behind their own behaviours. They leave them open to be interpreted in the worst way possible—often with disastrous consequences.
If you want to work well across cultures, don’t just talk issues, talk behaviours—what they mean and don’t mean–and what works for the both of you.
How Crucial Conversations Addresses Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
Crucial Conversations teaches people how to make room for different opinions and perspectives, find mutual respect and common purpose, and dialogue openly. When people have these skills, they not only work together more effectively, they also foster psychological safety and inclusion.
While Crucial Conversations is not explicitly a course on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, it does contribute to inclusive and equitable workplaces. The central tenet of the course teaches that there is a pool of shared meaning, and the aim of dialogue is to invite and allow everyone to contribute to it. In other words, everybody gets a seat at the table, regardless of race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, political viewpoint, ability, or experience. That’s the goal. The skills highlight how.
We recognise that cultivating diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is a process. We’re committed to continually revising and updating our courses to represent a wide range of experiences and backgrounds. We hope our new courses reflect that commitment. To learn more about our new Crucial Conversations courses visit link to course page.