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Pause for Inclusion

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How would you answer if asked, “Are you a good listener?”

I’m guessing you might say, “Of course I am, and I’m great at multi-tasking!” This would not be surprising, as 96% of global professionals believe they are great listeners. Understandably, most people want to be skilled at listening because each of us knows the importance of being heard. In our fast-paced work environments and lives, truly listening to one another can get lost in our day-to-day lives.

That loss can also have a profound impact on building cultures that value inclusion and belonging. Tuning out of conversations, even when we believe we are good at both listening and multi-tasking, impacts the people around us, perhaps in ways we have yet to notice. So, what can we do about it? One word: pause. 

Promoting Understanding

Inclusive environments require active listening, and pausing offers us a moment to step back and consider the perspectives and experiences of other people in the room. It also allows us time to recalibrate and reflect on information we are hearing, which can often allow us time to challenge our biases or assumptions. In doing so, we develop empathy and understanding for others, which is crucial in building trusting and respectful relationships.   

Make Better Decisions

The next time you find yourself facilitating a meeting or conversation, consider taking 4-6 seconds when gathering feedback or moving to the next point. The gap in dialogue provides people with an opportunity to truly think and listen to the information. It also acts as an inclusive model for people who are Neurodiverse. You may hear from people who typically do not share; some just need to sit with the information before providing new ideas. After all, a cornerstone of DE&I work is acknowledging that we all have different thoughts and opinions. 

Not only do each of us have different perspectives, but each of us arrives at them differently. Consider that a strength and think of all the creativity and possible solutions that you may find in the silence. 

Embrace Real Collaboration

Teams that collaborate often experience higher productivity, improved problem-solving, and a positive team culture. However, it’s key that the collaboration remains inclusive to all. What inclusion in this environment looks like can vary from team to team but can often come down to small moments that make a big impact. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who might be sharing an idea with you – perhaps they notice your eyes darting to an incoming email or message. Instead of moving to answer the email or message, pause and allow those around you the time to finish their thought. It can be the difference between teammates knowing that you’re invested in their ideas or feeling like it may not be worth it to share in the next meeting. 

A pause is a powerful tool that all of us have in some form or fashion and can be transformative in our professional and personal lives. It may be uncomfortable at first, but with a little practice, each of us can lean in, listen more, and create a more inclusive future for everyone. 

Originally published in EXP Magazine. Take a look at how we view Diversity and Inclusion.


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