We spend a big part of our lives at work, which makes it more and more important to be able to accept differences. Learn how you can begin to radically accept others’ diversity and make sure that no one in your workplace feels left out.
Why is it important to radically accept others for who they are?
Radical acceptance is key to being a good leader, employee, team member, and person.
Accepting those who are different from us doesn’t mean that we have to give up our values or beliefs. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with our co workers actions, either. But it DOES mean that we do not need to feel threatened by people who think differently than us. Or worse, treat them as if they are somehow lesser human beings than ourselves! Because when we treat people poorly based on some diverse characteristic or a different opinion, that’s BS!
This is especially important in today’s workplace environment, where diversity is becoming increasingly common (and necessary). In fact, the best leaders know how to see each person’s diversity and maximize how it adds value to company culture and innovation. But the responsibility is not just on leadership. Radical acceptance is about each employee working to ensure that everyone feels welcomed and like they belong, regardless of different personalities or if they come from a different cultures.
When discussing diversity in the workplace, it’s not just about radically accepting someone’s race or gender. It can also be about age, sexual orientation, and political beliefs. Radical acceptance is about welcoming and embracing people’s full humanity. And you can’t begin the practice of embracing diverse people’s full humanity if you are working in a homogeneous environment.
When you look around your office today, is everyone the same? Do they look and sound the same? Is there just one person who represents a different culture or different opinion? If so, how do you think they feel about being in an environment where they are the only ones like them?
If you are looking around your office and most people look, think, and act the same, you have not created a culture of inclusion or radical acceptance; a culture where differences are embraced and fresh perspectives are invited and welcomed. Many people shy away from these diversity and inclusion endeavors because they think with more diverse perspectives comes more conflict. They worry that people from different backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs can’t unite as a cohesive team and create a connected culture. The truth is diverse perspectives don’t always equal conflict. More often than not, it can lead to new resolutions. However, the world of DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) is not always sunshine, rainbows, and harmony. People will disagree, so it’s essential to keep in mind that radical acceptance and agreement are not the same.
Radical acceptance doesn’t mean agreement.
Radical acceptance doesn’t mean agreement. You are not required to agree with a person’s views, ideas, or feelings. You ARE required to acknowledge that they have a right to have those views, ideas, and feelings. It’s about respecting each other as people regardless of our differences.
We would all agree on everything in an ideal world, but this isn’t reality! So how can we accept others when their values differ from ours?
We start by practicing being open-minded and radically accepting others. Being open-minded means that we need to be able to hear other people’s opinions without judging them, and it also means we have to be willing to question our thinking and beliefs, especially when those ideas and beliefs can cause hurt or harm to others.
How to start radically accepting others for who they are.
Become aware of your biases: your BiaSphere
If you genuinely want to radically accept others, you must become aware of your BiaSphere. Your BiaSphere is made up of your circles of influence. It includes your family, friends, schools, faith-based organizations, and the media you consume. All of these circles shaped how you see the world and its people.
And some of these circles of influence may have created biases preventing you from accepting your team members. You may have grown up hearing that black people are lazy, and now you hold that bias. Perhaps you were raised to believe gay people are going to hell, and you avoid your gay team member.
Thinking about our biases can feel challenging because it’s hard to think about how you might be biased without feeling like an awful person. But you’re not a horrible person, nor are you alone in your imperfections. We ALL have biases. But if we can admit that we tend to judge people based on their differences, then we’ve taken the first step toward accepting them. It also helps if you’re aware of why these differences exist. This is why saying “you don’t see color” is unhelpful. Recognizing differences also allows us to realize that differences in skin color, gender, and sexual orientation translate to differences in lived experiences. For example, a team member who grew up impoverished likely had fewer opportunities growing up than most people in the office. Or, maybe someone who grew up in another country is used to different social norms than what is commonly practiced in their company.
Being aware of this makes it easier for us to see others as individuals instead of judging them by stereotypes (like “quiet Asian” or “lazy black guy”).
Becoming more open-minded isn’t always easy, but once we recognize our own biases, we can start working on becoming more accepting of other people and ourselves.
Radically Accept Yourself
It’s essential to accept yourself before you can fully accept others. I know that seems backward, but it’s true. You are your best practice ground for skills like compassion, empathy, and understanding. Your BiaSphere didn’t just teach you how to judge others; it also taught you how to judge yourself.
Perhaps your BiaSphere taught you that you are wrong to be LGBTQ, so you hide who you are. Maybe your BiaSphere taught you that your accent would keep you from getting a promotion, so you take extra care to hide it at work. When we stay in the practice of judging ourselves, it makes it easier for us to stay in the practice of judging others. So before you start practicing radically accepting others, start by radically accepting yourself.
Once you practice radically accepting yourself, you can work on pausing before you judge and reject others.
In the moments when you notice your judgment about someone else showing up, ask yourself this question: “Am I perfect?” If the answer is no (and it should be no), then think about how much harder it would be if everyone around you was judging you and trying to make you perfect. So instead of judging others and comparing them to your ideals of perfection, try focusing on their unique qualities and talents.
That’s the only way to really appreciate each other.
Remind yourself how it feels to be judged about who you are.
This is a great way to develop compassion toward others. If you’ve been judged in the past, imagine how that felt and let yourself experience those negative emotions again. It can be helpful to think about what it was like when someone judged your appearance, personality, or beliefs.
Remember, you don’t need to take this too far, just enough for it to trigger some empathy for others in similar situations.
Build more relationships with people who are not like you.
It’s important to recognize that you can’t be friends with everyone, but you can build more relationships with people who are different from you.
This may sound obvious, but it’s an important distinction that some people miss. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone in your office, but you should work hard at being friendly and open-minded when it comes to people who are different from you.
I think this is especially true if their differences are things like gender, race, or sexual orientation. And even if they’re less obvious differences (like being really into sports), getting to know someone with a lot of knowledge about an unfamiliar subject could help make your work environment feel more inclusive and make life at work better for everyone involved.
The best way to get over your biases is to get to know people who are different from you. As discussed in the previous section, it’s easy for us to ignore individuals who don’t fit into our social groups or share our experiences and beliefs. However, by doing so, we’re missing out on opportunities for meaningful relationships that could change our lives for the better.