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Unconscious Inclusion: A Lesson from the Holidays


Many organizations are working to raise awareness of unconscious biases – beliefs about others formed throughout our lives and held at the subconscious level – but the Holidays gave most of us the chance to practice the opposite, positive phenomenon of unconscious inclusion.


During holiday parties, family gatherings, community events and religious observances, we were often surrounded by a broader cross-section of relatives, business associates and community members who differed from us. Whether these differences were in lifestyles, preferences, personalities or beliefs, we managed to successfully navigate and often enjoy the interactions by:


  • Setting aside differences and focusing on the spirit of the Holidays

  • Considering what matters to others so we could give gifts they’d value

  • Making an extra effort to ensure newcomers, travelers and visitors felt welcomed

  • Swapping stories to build connections

  • Appreciating and recognizing the effort others put into hospitality and service (I gave small gift cards to the service providers I encountered on Christmas Day: the gas station attendant, the hotel’s front desk clerk and housekeeper, etc.)


With a little reflection, we can carry this goodwill forward into the New Year to positively impact our interpersonal relationships on an ongoing basis. Try asking yourself these questions to explore ways you can make holiday-driven inclusiveness a year-round habit:


  • Setting aside differences: Have a coworker, client or boss who “rubs you the wrong way”? How might focusing on their contributions to your shared goals help you see them in a different light? What strengths, skills or insights do they bring to the table that you value and appreciate, and how can you focus on those instead of your differences?

  • Considering what matters: How could you learn more about those around you – their values, interests and backgrounds – so you can connect with them on a more personal level?

  • Making an extra effort: Who’s new to your office, professional organization or business relationships? How can you make sure they have what they need to feel welcomed and to begin making positive contributions? Who’s not new, but you know you haven’t done all that you could to support their success?

  • Swapping stories: Rather than the generic, “How were your Holidays?” try asking those around you if they have any fun or standout stories to share. Throughout the year, holidays and observances serve as an excellent time to learn about the traditions of others and share about your own, so try not to let those opportunities pass.

  • Appreciating and recognizing service: Who could you do a better job of recognizing and appreciating? Get in the habit of genuinely thanking others and appreciating even small acts of kindness and service. Even better, take time to get to know a bit more about those service providers you encounter regularly.


Even if your Holidays were filled with simply tolerating certain relatives, tolerance is a start. Imagine the difference in today’s climate if more people practiced basic tolerance? Tolerance can lead to acceptance, and acceptance to inclusion.


Here’s to a More Inclusive, Happy New Year!


#inclusion, #diversityandinclusion, #inclusiveculture, #unconsciousbias