A supplement to an article titled “Inclusion Comes With Increased Awareness” published in the October edition of OfficePro magazine, written by Angela Ellis.
Increasing your network is a key action in showing up inclusive. This not only refers to the quantity of people in your network. Your network is your net worth. Therefore, the greater the quality of your network, the greater the opportunity to show up inclusive.
Most of us have about five categories in which we socialize regularly: family, friends, neighbors, work/school contacts, and personal business connections. You can increase your network by engaging more deeply within each of these circles.
Here are some easy ways to find commonalities and embrace differences as well:
Engage around something in common
There may be neighbors you see when you’re working in the yard, or walking the dog, perhaps you never talk to them. What you have in common—neighbors, dog owners, garden lovers—is a good entrée for a conversation. So, the next time you are waiting with your kids at the school bus stop, you could seize the opportunity to introduce yourself to the other parents.
Connect beyond business
You may not be ready to extend a dinner invitation to your accountant or landscaper. But you can engage in other ways. If you notice a country flag on someone’s keychain, inquire about that. If you see a soccer team photo, on their desk, its might be interesting to discuss it. This effort could lead you to all sorts of conversations and eventually widen the lens through which you see the world.
Engage outside the norm
Affinity groups at work or in the community could also provide opportunities to connect with others. I’m not a veteran or a military spouse, but I once joined a military support group in my organization. I wanted to gain a better understanding of the perspectives and plights of the military family. This helped me to support and empathize with them.
Notice your inner voice
Pay attention to the thoughts (and perhaps assumptions) that come to mind when you encounter someone who is different than you. Do you assume they are unfriendly, or that you will have nothing in common? These assumptions can block our efforts to build connection before we even start.
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About the author: Angela Ellis, of Enhance Business Solutions, is a leadership and career coach and corporate learning facilitator. She is also a published author and resides in Nashville, Tennessee.