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'What is an inclusive conversation?' from Fierro Consulting: Inspiring People. Growing Organizations. Strengthening Communities.'s Blog

What is an inclusive conversation?

Sep 1, 2015
Category: Antiviolence  Group dynamics  Racism  Power Dynamics  Participatory Leadership  Antiracism  What is an inclusive conversation?  Inclusive Conversations 
Author: Rita Fierro, Ph.D.

Ever feel that having a conversation in a productive way when people have different perspectives is hard work? I've got news for you. You're right!

This blog is the first in a series of 13 about inclusive conversations. With three introductory blogs and ten topical blogs, along with the e-book that will compile them all, I'm focusing on ten barriers to inclusive conversations and 10 skills that can help overcome them.

What is an inclusive conversation and why do inclusive conversations matter?

Here is a beginning definition of inclusive conversations. 

I see an inclusive conversation as a conversation in which differences in perspectives are leveraged as opportunities instead of threats or being ignored

Differences in perspectives are always grounded in differences in life experiences whether they are based on gender, race, ethnicity, culture, class, location, job rank, political outlook, allegiances, hair color, or whatever other life experiences play an important role in an individual human being's life.

Here are a few opportunities for inclusive conversations: 

  • Generating strategies: Someone with different life experiences from the majority is invited to offer unique insights to understand the reaction of a wider audience;
  • In-group perceptions of other people: People from one group have a conversation about a person or group with a different set of life experiences;
  • Dissipating tension and staying engaged: Tensions build because of different perspectives, where the differences risk shutting down the conversation, e.g. agreeing to disagree;
  • Getting feedback: Getting genuine feedback on your work from someone who you know will have different view.

Engaging differences as building blocks instead of walls takes overcoming internal and external barriers and exercising certain muscles. 

In this blog series there will be 10 skills that will help you increase your capacity to have inclusive conversations. I will also tell you stories about how they I used them.

But before we get to skills, let's check our assumptions. Why is inclusion important? Why should we care? That's the topic of my next blog.

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