March 28, 2015

What is an Inclusion Expert?

You feel different. You look different. You wonder if you will ever fit in your new office or team. "Will I ever be included and accepted?" you wonder. 

People who are different from the rest, minorities often feel this way. A woman in a group of men feels this way. A physically disabled person may feel this way around more 'healthy' people. A non-swimmer in a group of swimmers would naturally feel left out. A hearing person may feel this way if around non-hearing people. A Keralite in Hyderabad feels this way, just as a Hyderbadi feels this way in Trivandrum. An Indian going onsite to the US to work in an American office may feel out of place until he or she learns about American culture. An American expat living in India may not feel comfortable at first. At sometime or other in our life, we feel different. We feel left out. We feel we don't fit in. We desperately want to fit in, but yet not compromise our own identity. When entering the office everyone knows English but speaks in the local language, making it hard for you to break into the conversation, and also for them to include you, as in the below video (not filmed with Indians, but the concept is the same).  



A cross-cultural trainer that doubles as an
Inclusion Expert helps participants grasp
how gestures and non-verbal behaviors
include or exclude others.
As a cross-cultural trainer, I provide interactive sessions on these kinds of topics mixed in with empathy exercises. If we understand how we feel if others treat us this way and how it feels, hopefully we won't do this to others, as we wouldn't want to make others feel that discomfort and exclusion as we felt in that moment. Role plays include language and body language awareness to make this transition felt throughout the body, not just in the mind and mouth, but the heart. Yes, one of the criticisms of this activity some bring out is, "Why does it matter, other people do it?" Well....just because other people do it, it doesn't make it right. And, remember how you feel when it happens to  you? Would you want to be responsible for this feeling in another human? It causes resentment, and no one wants to be resented. Resentment is the opposite of inclusion. Let's talk about how to include others, especially newcomers, or those different from us, and make them feel welcome! 

While an Inclusion Expert helps with this. An Inclusion Expert could be part of the Human Resources team, and could act as a mentor or go-between for those 'not getting along' or 'learning to tolerate each other.' In fact, I would remove the words 'tolerate' or 'cope' as these two words still give the impression that we really don't accept the other person, and are interacting with them out of duty, and we really don't like them. While this is a reality in some cases, we can try to transcend that, right? 

Inclusion Experts not only try to bridge differences in mindset, culture, behavior and feeling, but try to help us look deeper in ourselves to accept ourselves more. It's pretty deep, but if time permits, as we learn to accept, love and include ourselves, it's easier to be more open and accepting of others. 

While an Inclusion Expert can help with cross-cultural tiffs, the job of an inclusion expert includes so much more than only cross-cultural misunderstandings. To learn more about the role of an Inclusion Expert and how you can be one, check out this article from Chron.com

Authentic Journeys provides interactive, thought provoking inclusiveness workshops, helping diverse teams in India to build diversity through inclusion of colleagues from all over India. Inclusiveness training extends to teams that go onsite, and how they can adjust to work life in the US and include the US colleagues into their social circle to build better professional and personal relationships across cultural borders. Jennifer Kumar, an American expat living in Kochi, India heads Authentic Journeys. Contact us for more information. 

Related Posts:
Fitting In: Look Beyond Labels 
Identity & Values 
Be Yourself While Adapting to Culture Changes 

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