11 Tips for Having Inclusive and Racially Responsive Conversations

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The ability to engage in inclusive and racially responsive conversations is a journey that requires cultural self-understanding, addressing our biases and fears, and understanding our power and privilege.

  1. Silence can be harmful. Organizational silence on issues of racism may be interpreted as the organization not caring. Engaging in conversations (casual and difficult) can signal to employees that the institution does, in fact, care.
  2. Get ready. Know your own readiness as well as the readiness of your colleagues/team to engage with these conversations before you begin. When preparing for these necessary conversations, ask for support or consult with OAREHRS/HR if you are unsure how to begin. Remember that readiness is different from preparation. Preparation is getting ready; readiness is a longer-term process of introspection. Responsible conversations require both. Please see the Team Readiness document.
  3. Create the right space. When we minimize distractions, listen actively, manage our emotions, show consistency and speak honestly, we build trust and create safer spaces for honest and authentic dialogue to occur.
  4. Be mindful of the different perspectives that may be present. When discussing tragic events occurring in the world, the impact can be felt differently by diverse groups. This can negatively influence engagement, sense of belonging, safety and productivity.
  5. Remember to centre those who are most at risk or harm. Think about how power plays a part when discussing charged issues.
  6. Promote inclusion and provide resources. Provide tools and resources for staff to develop skills to talk about polarizing/charged topics effectively and to support employees in addressing their concerns.
  7. Resist the urge to minimize differences. We tend to minimize differences and overstate our similarities. Remember the platinum rule: treat others as their needs require, not by what you would need.
  8. Find opportunities to learn about those who are different from you. Effectively engaging in racially responsive conversations requires knowledge of different cultures, lived experiences and ways of being.
  9. Don’t stop at one -schedule and plan for additional conversations. It takes time to create spaces where authentic conversations can occur. Have several conversations that build on one another and that support developing shared understanding and shared learning.
  10. It is ok to pause. If you reach an impasse, put the conversation on pause, but make a commitment to return to the conversation when you and your colleagues/team are ready.
  11. Conflict is not always harm, and accountability is not bullying. It is important to unpack and explore conflict that may be connected to feelings of discomfort and disorientation when race and equity are discussed. However, if addressed and truthfully examined, growth will be experienced. Also, holding someone accountable for their words or behaviour is not bullying. Addressing issues and moving toward growth and preventing future harmful behaviour are opportunities for learning and change. Holding yourself and others accountable for their words and actions is an act of social justice.

Remember: polarizing and racially-charged topics may not always be front and centre in the workplace, however, it is important to be ready for conversations about these issues when they arise. Start from an authentic place, learn from your mistakes, and commit to continuing to contribute toward a more inclusive learning and working environment here at GBC.