How To Avoid Exclusion

Mar 19, 2024

Today, we’re exploring the concept of preventing exclusion. In our current culture, there’s significant discussion on promoting inclusion and fostering a sense of belonging, which is undoubtedly vital. However, I’m equally fascinated by the reverse: How can we prevent people from feeling excluded?

To delve into this, we’ll engage in an exercise that paradoxically requires actively excluding people. The objective here is not to alienate but to understand dynamics. Your goal is to have the most people at your table, demonstrating the ‘Simple Activity Of Exclusion.’ You’ll be given prompts that ask you to exclude someone from your group based on specific, quirky criteria, like having the most pockets or the longest pinky. The excluded individuals will then have the opportunity to ‘shop’ for a new table, except they cannot return to their original one.

This exercise, though lighthearted and filled with laughter, serves as a powerful metaphor for exclusion in real life. Through rounds of changing dynamics and rules, such as recruiting without using your voice or selecting the person with the shortest hair for exclusion, we witness the impact of our choices and actions on group composition and individual feelings.

Reflecting on a personal anecdote, I shared my experience facilitating a workshop for a highly stressed group in Dallas. Despite initial skepticism, the power of laughter and engagement transformed the atmosphere, highlighting how laughter can be a release of nervousness. This aligns with John Dewey’s philosophy that being playful and serious simultaneously is the ideal mental state.

Drawing from this, we ponder the real-life equivalents of saying ‘see ya’ to someone and how subtle actions or words can either include or exclude individuals. For example, considering the cost of an item as ‘cheap’ or ‘expensive’ might inadvertently exclude people based on their financial perspective. A mindful approach to inclusion is adding ‘for me’ to statements, recognizing our experiences are not universal.

The essence of preventing exclusion lies in shifting from a mindset of knowing to a mindset of learning. By fostering curiosity and asking questions, we open ourselves to the experiences and perspectives of others, reducing the likelihood of inadvertent exclusion.

To conclude, I encourage you to discuss with a couple of peers how ‘see ya’ and ‘over here’ manifest in your own contexts. Sharing these insights can shed light on the subtle ways we might exclude or include others in our daily interactions, guiding us toward more inclusive and empathetic communities.