Moving the Conversation from Micro-Aggressions to Micro-Inclusions

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Ilene C. Wasserman, Ph.D

You’re sitting in a meeting and it happens.  You make a suggestion. But the conversation moves on only to have someone else present the very same idea a few moments later without any reference to yours and the response is one of great enthusiasm. You tell yourself – It’s not important who the idea came from. You tell yourself – I’m glad that the idea grabbed some wings.  You tell yourself – maybe the group wasn’t ready for it when I said it.

And then it happens again – and again. You begin to question yourself – and wonder about your own ability to influence.  And then it happens again – and again.  What is the impact of this dynamic on team work and collaboration?

For years, we have heard about this dynamic at the workplace.  And yes, most people can relate to this dynamic as having happened to them at some point or another.  Yet some of these patterns are noted more often with greater consequences for people who are more likely to see or feel marginalized: because of gender, race, age,

Unconscious Bias and Micro-Aggressions have become popular topics for diversity and inclusion programs.  Recently,  I was invited to the Central Florida Diversity Learning Series in Orlando Florida to speak about Micro Messaging: How Micro-Aggressions, Micro-Expressions and Emotional Intelligence Impact Inclusion.  Dr. Sue defines micro-aggressions as:

… brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color. Perpetrators of micro-aggressions are often unaware that they engage in such communications when they interact with racial/ethnic minorities.

Derald Wing Sue,  2007

Our words create our relationships and our relationships create our worlds.  How can we all pay attention to the dynamics of unconscious bias to raise them to intentions, and turn our focus to every day opportunities of inclusion?  How might we notice micro-aggressions – whether they are interactions we experience, observe or create – and find opportunities to create micro-inclusions in the next iteration?

Such an opportunity presented itself while I was a participant in a strategy meeting.  One of the younger women said something that I built on moments later. The response to my comment was very positive.  I responded – “Actually, I was building on the comment Jenna made a few minutes ago.”

This small act may matter to some more than others.  But just consider – how might this have mattered to that person who began to wonder – “Why bother?”  Just a small acknowledgement can be an encouragement – and an encouragement can be an inspiration and an inspiration can mean the next great idea – not necessarily from one person – but from the synergy that comes from full inclusion.

Just for one day, try looking for opportunities for committing a micro-inclusion.  Your move might just send ripples for another, a team and who knows what more!  Let us know what you notice!

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