By Paola Carnevali
What words come to mind when you first think about inclusion?
The truth is, it is a big term that can’t be encapsulated into one single definition. Being inclusive requires having an open mind to accept and embrace differences that surround us. It requires us to have a caring heart towards others, where we acknowledge that it isn't only us, but that we live in a world where we are bound to others needs and support in order to survive. Being inclusive is necessary in order to thrive as global leaders given that each day distances become shorter and communications are stronger between us.
So the question is, what are we doing to become inclusive in our community? What conversations am I having with my students? My children? My colleagues and friends?
Inclusion is a lifestyle that needs to be modeled and supported, and even though it sounds intimidating and feels overwhelming, it is possible to achieve it. Sometimes we don’t even notice but small acts of kindness that we do on a daily basis contribute to fostering an environment where everyone feels accepted and loved. Start by noticing the people around you and greeting them, calling someone by their name can be powerful, it lets them know that you notice their presence and acknowledge them. Get out of your comfort zone and talk to someone that you usually don’t talk to, you might be surprised! All human beings are going through this same experience called life, and we all share the common desire to feel appreciated and loved. Talk to your children about the importance of being present and mindful. Asking someone “is there anything you would like to share with me about your day?”, can lead to deep conversations that will eventually let you connect with others. Things as simple as maintaining eye contact and putting our phone aside during a conversation can let others know we are here for them. Remember body language speaks volumes about how we really feel and being aware of our actions can help us develop more meaningful interactions with others. Show gratitude even in the little things by saying “thank you for sharing with me what happened in your day”, or “I’m grateful to have had time to spend with you!” are great ways to let others know we care about them. And when you catch someone else being kind don’t forget to give them a shout out. Receiving positive reinforcement can encourage others to keep repeating the same behavior!
So the next time you stumble upon the word inclusion I encourage you to remember that we all have the same need to belong and feel loved just the way we are. And I truly believe that when we change our perspective to see and act with love our world changes for the better.