Do You “Stand Under” The Realities of Others?

3 Simple Exercises to Live in Allyship

According to an article published in October 2020 in The Atlantic, “There has never been an anti-racist majority in American history. There may be one today.”

Of course, there are many ways to interpret this statement, but I, the ultimate optimist, choose to believe that not only is this a positive proclamation for the US, but it also makes psychological safety in the workplace that much more achievable and feasible. After all, we do bring our “whole selves to work” from a bias perspective. We see the world through our own eyes based on our personal terroir.

Being an ally in the workplace positively affects social justice. That’s a win/win/win situation! And for anyone saying, “No, in this situation, I lose”, keep in mind that psychological safety implies that everyone feels safe.

In May’s DRIVEN article, we explored the first steps any of us can take to “be the change we want to see”. Did you check out the included “terroir exercise”? It’s not too late! This inward investigation will provide non-judgmental insights about the root of why you think what you think. The reward is you’ll have reduced your blind spot, thereby widening your view of the world to see what others see.

I don’t know about you, but I’m often taken by something I read or hear in a lecture or workshop and say to myself, “That sounds logical”! Being a logical woman, I then believe that I’ll somehow be able to execute on the concept suggested. Of course, that is a delusion, comparable to watching a cooking show and trying to prepare the dish a week later.

DRIVEN’s method of “teaching” is learning by practice. To understand this more wholly, consider this testimonial from a DRIVEN client:

“During the course of the 4-month program, I not only learned the high-level concepts, but I am also equipped with smart tactics to handle several real-life situations. Among many other things, there are 2 things I really liked about the program. 1) Deborah’s exercise-based approach as opposed to a traditional lecture approach. This made me learn by doing as opposed to learn by listening only. The former is much more effective. 2) The OfficeHours sessions helped the team here learn from each other, in addition to learning from the coach.” -Dolly Kamalpreet, Morgan Stanley

So, let’s consider how we can challenge ourselves to simple (but not necessarily easy) exercises and experiments in order to LIVE as Allies— not just assume we are allies. Here are three offerings. Throughout June, we’ll get granular about how each exercise could play out.

1. Recognize Your Privilege. If your initial reaction to reading those words is defensive, please take a breath and ask yourself “WHY?”. Stay with me here. Just like Unconscious Bias has a stigma attached to it, so does the word “Privilege”. Realize the word itself isn’t detracting from your hard work, achievements and accomplishments. Labeling yourself as privileged allows you to understand how you’ve been blessed with advantages that many of your fellow humans have not.

Since words create worlds, consider yourself advantaged, lucky, fortunate…. you choose the word. Seeing your privilege affords you the ability to see the world through others’ eyes with compassion and empathy.

Are you ready to take this one step further? I invite you to look at this list of “50 Potential Privileges in the Workplace” compiled by Better Allies. How many of them apply to you? Now consider the challenges others who do not have these privileges may face as they live their lives.

And here’s a positive reframe on the word “Privilege”: We have permission to use our privilege to speak up. But first you must give yourself the grace of not having recognized the privilege you have, as each of us has blind spots!

And speaking of blind spots…

2. Remember to See Things from Another’s Eyes. It’s harder than we think. So now that you can see how you differ from other humans, you have permission to ask questions in order to understand, or “stand under” others’ realities. In our Conversational Intelligence® community, we call this Double Clicking— asking questions to dig deeper or wider and see how others view the world. Here’s an example: If I invited you to a picnic and said, “It’s a beautiful, mild day”, how might you interpret it? If you live in Southern California, you may think it means 80 degrees and you’d skip the sweater for my 60-degree picnic. If you lived in Syracuse, NY you would likely dress for 40-degrees!

3. Give the Present of Your Presence. Listening to understand means being fully present with the person speaking and keeping pace with their words. This implies not only staying “with them”, but also not getting ahead of them. How often have you been listening to another’s story and were so sure you knew the punch line that your attention drifted? What’s more, while you were thinking about your grocery list as they finished their story, their punchline may have been quite different from your imagined ending, and you proceed to remember your version of their story!

As you listen, imagine that the speaker is offering you a gift in a beautifully wrapped box with a bow on it. Wouldn’t you lean in to receive the present?

These three steps may seem obvious at face value, and yet, putting them into practice could be likened to assembling a Top Chef dish from memory. As you endeavor to be a better ally, remember to bring a healthy dose of self-compassion along for the ride. You may find that you enjoy the benefits of allyship— a greater understanding of your colleagues, and gratitude for your place in the world.


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