Last week I attended a symposium on Diversity and Inclusion. The event was sponsored by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the City of Huntsville, Alabama A & M University, Leadership Huntsville/Madison County, the University of Alabama in Huntsville Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and the U.S. Army Material Command. Those sponsors alone make a statement about the importance of these issues to our community.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Steve L. Robbins who inspired us with his stories, his humor and his knowledge of human behavior. It is difficult to summarize the insights gained from spending four hours with this remarkable man. However, below are just a few:
Diversity really begins with inclusion.
Mindfully practicing inclusion is the act of valuing people for their unique gifts, abilities and experiences. When we do so, we will find ourselves surrounded with diverse perspectives and our lives will be much richer and wiser.
Exclusion is the result of a close-minded attitude…the certainty that whatever I think, feel, or believe is right.
Inclusion comes from an attitude of curiosity and open-mindedness. Practicing open-mindedness means we ask ourselves the question “What is another way to look at that thought or feeling or belief or behavior?”
Our first reaction may not be the best option.
It very likely may be coming from our primitive brain, the part of our brain that favors efficiency over accuracy…a necessary skill when we were struggling with the sheer act of survival. Stopping to breathe and reflect on other options helps move us into our wise brain, the part of our brain that is intentional and thoughtful and may propose better responses, as opposed to reactions.
Replacing assumptions with curiosity and questions leads to deeper conversations and increased understanding and shows that you truly care.
Human beings are hard-wired to seek belonging.
Unfortunately, when you get right down to it, the world is divided into insiders and outsiders and at any given moment we can find ourselves in either group. We need to remember what it feels like to be on the outside…the pain we feel at not belonging.
The door between insiders and outsiders is closed.
The knob to open the door is only on the side of the insiders. Therefore, outsiders need insiders to open the door. And when we are on the inside, I believe, we have a responsibility to those on the outside.
The topic of diversity and inclusion is much too vast to be covered in a few paragraphs here and so, I will end with this quote from Robert Muller, who was the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations for 40 years.
“What the world needs most is openness: Open hearts, open doors, open eyes, open minds, open ears, open souls.”
~Lynn Motley, LICSW