Diversity and alienating language

The Department of Education defines inclusive language as “language that is free from words, phrases or tones that reflect prejudiced, stereotyped or discriminatory views of particular people or groups. It is also language that doesn’t deliberately or inadvertently exclude people from being seen as part of a group, such as using gender-specific pronouns.”

No matter what we feel about the excesses of political correctness, non-inclusive language can create offense in people (either on their own behalf or on behalf of other people).
At the very least we have to accept that when it is used by some individuals and groups, it can reflect an intolerance or bias that we have worked hard to address within society – an intolerance with which we would probably prefer not to associate. In other words, even totally innocent use of non-inclusive language can have implications which may affect the engagement and commitment of people in our meetings, and should be avoided.
This is particularly important in organisations which are seeking to address issues of diversity – not just in terms of nature or disposition, but also in terms of thinking and approach.
We need a rich vein of ideas and perspectives to ensure the best outcomes, and it is diversity that helps us to achieve that. Diversity may seem like a moral and ethical position, but it can also be a pragmatic and rewarding one.
The first step is to find ways to ensure your own language is inclusive – ditch those purely masculine pronouns, and check the adjectives you use do not create unfortunate associations between something flawed and undesirable with any group of people – such as the word ‘lame’ for instance (but there are many more, and we don’t always realise we are using them).
While we clearly don’t intend offence with these words, they can unintentionally reflect aspects of our traditions and history where disdain for other groups ‘not like us’ was more prevalent and accepted.
But inclusive language is not just about groups, it is also about individuals, and about appreciation and respect of individual contributions.
There is clearly value in humour and banter in keeping group energy high, but it is important that this is not at the cost of an individual’s feelings or respect. Humour is often the weapon of choice of the cynic and the bully, and sometimes we don’t even realise it is happening. A sarcastic put-down or rolling-eyes can both damage somebody’s confidence and trash what might have been the beginnings of a different way forward.
So the second step is to pick up and address (in the nicest and most supportive way) use of non-inclusive language by others. Include it in your groundrules – perhaps with a line like: “We value diversity in all things and positively support it in word and deed.” which would give you the perfect opportunity to pick up on the behaviour illustrated in the previous paragraph.

Please subscribe to access clinic content

Subscription to the Inspirometer Information Service is free of charge and grants you instant access to a wealth of meeting effectiveness resources and guidance. It also provides you with regular updates direct to your mailbox at a frequency of your choosing.

I am happy to consent to the Inspirometer cookies and Terms and Conditions

Your use of the Inspirometer Information Service is subject to the following terms and conditions, and is subject to our privacy policy which can be reviewed here: https://inspirometer.com/privacy-policy

■ We will not use your information for any other purpose than to keep you informed of developments in meeting effectiveness and the Inspirometer system, and we will not share your information with others.
■ You are able to unsubscribe from this service at any time. Each email you receive from us will contain a link where you can reset your preferences for all future emails, or unsubscribe for the service entirely.
■ We will contact you on a minimum of a quarterly basis to ensure that our service is continuing to meet your needs, to give you a general update on key developments in our service, and to provide you with the option to change your contact preferences
■ We will hold your data on file to enable your access to the Information Service until such time as you unsubscribe from the service
■ If we hold your data outside of the information service as a result of you contacting us by email or purchasing our service, we will hold your data in accordance with our Privacy Policy (https://inspirometer.com/privacy-policy). We will delete such data, in situations where we are not legally required to retain it, on receipt of a verified request from you
■ All information provided by us is provided in good faith. All information submitted by you is to be provided in good faith.
■ In compliance with the GDPR 2018, you acknowledge that clicking the subscribe button grants us your consent to hold the data you have provided, and to contact you using that data, in the manner described above.
By clicking the button below, I agree with the Terms & Conditions.
Track your progress to ensure the efficacy of this strategy.