Inclusion & Diversity Etiquette 6 Rules: How To Do It Best

The crucial inclusion and diversity etiquette rules. The appropriate behaviors to avoid the most common forms of discrimination. Follow these rules to be inclusive and avoid offending others.

What inclusion and diversity etiquette is

Inclusion etiquette is the set of rules to be inclusive and avoid discrimination based on someone’s personal attributes. Such rules include:

  • How to train yourself to avoid discrimination.
  • The inappropriate behaviors to avoid.
  • How to deal with discrimination.

Everyone should respect inclusion etiquette to avoid discriminatory behaviors, respect others, and be inclusive.

If you experience or witness discrimination, follow the etiquette rules to appropriately deal with the offending party.

General inclusion and diversity etiquette principles

People tend to feel more comfortable with someone who is similar to them. Such as someone with the same gender, ethnicity, age, parental status, and so on. Thus, when people perceive diversity, they may get uncomfortable or defensive.

Inclusion etiquette is based on three main principles:

  • Help people positively perceive diversity and avoid prejudice.
  • Ensure equal treatment.
  • Avoid any behavior that can offend others based on their personal attributes.
how to be inclusive and diversity rules

Inclusion and diversity etiquette rules

1) Train yourself to get comfortable with diversity

Instead of focusing on the perceived diversity, it is best to train ourselves to focus on the similarities. The things that we have in common with other people are disproportionally more than the differences. We all eat, drink, breathe, spend time with someone we love, have fun, work, expect fair compensation for our work, and so on. Personal attributes are factors that do not affect such similarities at all. One personal attribute does not define a person. Thus, such attributes are not as relevant as one might think.

Discrimination happens when we think about other people in terms of their personal attributes. Then, we allow bias and prejudice to interfere with our judgment and opinions.

Race, ethnicity, and cultural heritage

Racism is prejudice or hostility on the basis of attributes such as race, ethnicity, or cultural heritage. Examples include skin color, country of origin, or region of origin.

Sexism

Sexism is prejudice or hostility on the basis of gender. It includes hostility against pregnancy or gender self-identification.

Sexual orientation

Sexual discrimination is prejudice or hostility on the basis of sexual orientation

Physical traits or conditions 

Physical traits, disability, or other conditions do not define a person.

Age 

Age discrimination is prejudice or hostility against a person on the basis of age. Targets can belong to any age group.

Status as a parent

Parental status discrimination is prejudice or hostility toward parents.

Political views 

Political discrimination is prejudice or hostility against a person on the basis of political opinions or views. The ability to accept ideas different from our own is the basis of a democratic society. Suppressing opinion diversity is a typical feature of dictatorships and authoritarian regimes.

Religion

Religious discrimination is prejudice or hostility based on someone’s religion or religious beliefs. An inclusive culture must respect, welcome, and accommodate people of all religions. A positive culture facilitates people to observe their religion. Examples include:

Classism

Classism is a form of discrimination that benefits the upper class at the expense of the lower class. Class discrimination is rooted in a set of prejudices based on factors such as wealth, education, social network, or occupation. However, no one of these factors defines an individual. While there might be differences across social groups, such differences do not affect our basic rights and values as individuals.

2) Avoid generalizations about diversity attributes

It is best to never generalize. Personal traits and behaviors are almost always disconnected. Furthermore, one personal attribute does not define a person. Thus, a single personal attribute cannot predict how good a person is, preferences, or behaviors.

3) Challenge your own prejudice toward diversity

Prejudice leads to racism and discrimination. Thus, to avoid discrimination and ensure equal opportunities, we need to fight our own prejudices.

Train yourself to challenge your own prejudice. Ask yourself whether your opinion about someone is based on your experience or on what other people say. It is best to base our opinions on our own first-hand experience. We cannot rely solely on what others may say or may have experienced, as they might be biased.

Similarly, ask yourself whether your opinion about someone would change if the person belonged to another affinity group. Are there objective facts that informed your opinion? Or is your opinion based mostly on perceived factors?

4) Adopt an inclusive and neutral language

Never refer to someone by their physical traits, body parts, gender, or any other personal attribute. Similarly, avoid slurs or any term that can be perceived as derogatory based on someone’s personal attributes. Avoid words, thoughts, or sentences that imply segregation. Such as “we” as opposed to “you” (your group) or “they”.

When you refer to a generic role or person, use gender-neutral pronouns. For example:

  • We are hiring a new marketing manager. He will be in charge of marketing. [Inappropriate]
  • We are hiring a new marketing manager. He/She will be in charge of marketing. [Appropriate]
  • We are hiring a new marketing manager. They will be in charge of marketing. [Appropriate]

The first sentence is inappropriate, as it suggests a preference for a male candidate. The other two sentences are appropriate, as they imply equality.

5) Avoid sensitive or personal topics 

Avoid conversation topics that can be controversial, too personal, or at risk of misinterpretation. People that have experienced significant discrimination may be particularly sensitive to some topics. Politics, religion, or history may be inappropriate, as they depend largely on personal preferences and interpretations.

It is most appropriate to make small talk to get to know other people. Small talk help build rapport, understand boundaries, and avoid venturing into conversation topics that may be sensitive.

6) Be tolerant of inclusion and diversity etiquette mistakes

Discrimination is wrong and it should be prevented. However, it is the best etiquette to avoid confrontation. Instead, when possible, choose tolerance and dialogue.

People are generally good and want to be good. Discrimination often comes from a lack of education about equality or exposure to diversity. Thus, the best cure against discrimination is to patiently educate people and expose them to diversity in a non-threatening way.

When someone makes an offensive remark, do not confront them. Instead, patiently make them aware that their remark or behavior can be offensive to you. Briefly explain your reasons.

Try your best to not sound judgemental or self-righteous. Instead, consider yourself privileged because you received education about equality or exposure to diversity, while the other person clearly did not.

Do not expect immediate results. People need time to learn, absorb experiences, understand their mistakes, and learn from them. Be tolerant and have faith in others and their goodwill.

How to deal with discrimination

Discrimination in your social circle

Help friends, relatives, and people you care about to correct their mistakes. Make them aware of what discrimination is and why it should be avoided. Be tolerant and non-confrontational. Try to start a dialogue and help them understand what behaviors to avoid and why. If the other person does not show any sign of improvement over time, it may be best to reconsider your relationship with them.

Inclusion and diversity etiquette at work or in the office

Every employer has the duty to create a work environment that is welcoming and inclusive. While a tolerant attitude is most appropriate in informal and social circles, discrimination should not be tolerated in any professional or institutional setting.

If you experience or witness discrimination at work, you can politely correct the offending party. If the issue persists, avoid confrontation. Instead, involve your human resources function. When you find yourself in a work environment where discrimination is endemic, do not start a crusade and leave.

Inclusion and diversity etiquette at schools and universities

Educational institutions have the duty to educate people about equality and inclusion. Thus, any discriminatory behavior in such venues cannot be tolerated and must be corrected.

If you experience or witness discrimination in an educational institution, you should report it immediately to the institution’s governing bodies. If the issue persists, it is perfectly appropriate to escalate it to any supervisory institution.

inclusion and diversity etiquette mistakes

Inclusion and diversity etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. Find more about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst inclusion and diversity etiquette mistakes. 

  • 10/10. Discriminating based on someone’s personal attributes.
  • 10/10. Tolerating persistent discrimination.
  • 9/10. Making generalizations about diversity attributes.
  • 8/10. Speaking in a non-inclusive language.

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