Allies Signal Safety to Others for Diversity
Being an ally is being there for someone that is this different than yourself. Perhaps it’s someone of a different race, gender identity, LGBTQ+, or someone with a disability. There are many more dimensions to diversity. People can’t self-proclaim to be allies for others, rather it is through day-to-day actions and behaviors that one demonstrates to others that you want to be an ally for them.
Embrace the Tension of Paradox
Paradox is defined as, “a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.”
In other words, it’s the grey area. Diversity is ambiguous. It’s messy. Diversity doesn’t fit into clean categories. Our brains like patterns and categories. It makes it easy to save energy in our brain or more complex things by automating simple categorized responses. The challenge is that is super unhelpful when it comes to diversity. Thus, the taxing effort it requires to reorganize our brain to be okay with ambiguity.
Consider the “yes and” approach to diversity. It is being okay with two truths that seem contradictory. Being okay with someone saying “she’s a good person and she makes mistakes” or “they are different and we have a lot in common.” They feel different, yet both statements combined can be true.
Separate Intentions vs. Impacts
This is big in the diversity world. Most people are good people. Most people get out of bed in the morning and want to do good things. They have good intentions. These are good-ish people. They are not all bad, not all good, they are walking paradoxes.
The problem is that good-ish people don’t realize that their actions and behaviors are unhelpful. To change this, they need to better understand the impact of their actions and behaviors to be more inclusive. This requires us to separate intent from impact.
Take this example to show how to separate intent from Impact. Let’s say there is a woman on the team and she is the primary caretaker of her young children. Instead of asking the woman if she could stay late, she was simply not invited to the meeting after hours. The meeting organizer assumed she would be busy and did not want to bother her. In that meeting, decisions were made about important work and relationships were strengthened as a team. Not being at the meeting leads to lower visibility and less career success long-term. Good intentions, negative impact.
Call People into the Diversity Conversation
What do you do when you see good people do harmful things? If you see something, say something as an ally. Saying nothing is the same as saying it’s okay. There’s no better way to ensure something hurtful happens again then to ignore it or to sweep it under the rug and pretend like it didn’t happen.
Calling people INTO the diversity conversation. Calling people in rather than out requires a candid conversation. Asking the person simply what they meant by something hurtful that they said or why they made a decision that wasn’t inclusive is the first step. From there, with trust and vulnerability, you can build bridges to prevent that behavior from occurring again. It is an ongoing dialogue.
Oftentimes candor and feedback comes better from allies. People listen when they don’t think you have something to personally gain from the conversation. Speak up as an ally. It’s not okay to be silent.