Podcast

In this episode of The Forum Podcast, Howard Ross (Udarta Consulting) explores the role of “belonging” in the workplace and organizational culture.

Subscribe to our podcast on Apple PodcastSpotifyStitcherAnchor

 

What is “Belonging”? As we have moved from diversity to inclusion, we still mostly have created environments in which historically marginalized people are adapting to organizations whose cultures are driven by the dominant group. The challenge is, what kind of an organization can actually have all people feel like they are fully engaged? This podcast will attempt to describe how organizational cultures can be developed that created greater opportunities for authenticity, joy and inclusion. It will begin by establishing the link between healthy organizational cultures and high performance, both by individual employees and organizations as a whole, and then establish how culture impacts human performance.

Learning Outcomes
  • Gain skills to identify how your organization can move IDEA efforts from “fixing problems” to “building community
  • Learn best practices that have successfully engaged their organizations in practices that lead to greater belonging
  • Develop a deeper understanding of the human need for belonging

Sponsored by

us bank logo

Transcript

SPEAKER 1:
The Forum on Workplace Inclusion Podcast is sponsored by US Bank, embracing what makes us unique creates more possibilities for all. Learn more at US Bank.com/diversity. US bank member, FDIC equal housing lender. You’re listening to the Forum on Workplace Inclusion Podcast, register for our next diversity inside the presentation, race, politics and the workplace. This presentation will take place on October 29th at 12:00 pm. Central daylight time. The presentation is an online video conference format. For more information and to register, visit Forum Workplace Inclusion.org. We get to engage people, advance ideas and ignite change because of the generous support from our community. If you find our resources meaningful or valuable, please consider supporting the forum today. Visit Forum Workplace Inclusion.org/donate. That’s Forum Workplace Inclusion.org/donate. Thank you very much for your support and generosity. With that, I’d like to say thank you to all our listeners and subscribers. You help support the growth of the podcast and reach new listeners. If you like what you’re hearing on the Forum Podcast, please consider writing a review on Apple podcast or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you’ve already written a review, thank you.

Please consider sharing our podcast with a friend, family member or a colleague you think might find value in the content. Word of mouth is the best way the forum grows, so thank you very much for listening and sharing. Thanks again and enjoy the show.

BEN:
Hello and thank you for joining us for today’s podcast, Building Belonging 8 Pathways to Creating Inclusive, Joyful Organizational Communities with Howard Ross, Udarta Consulting, (INAUDIBLE) program associate here at the Forum on Workplace Inclusion. What is belonging? As we’ve moved from diversity to inclusion, we still have mostly created an environment in which historically marginalized people adapted to organizations whose cultures are driven by the dominant group. The challenges. What kind of an organization can actually have all people feel like they are fully engaged? This podcast will attempt to describe how organizational cultures can be developed that created greater opportunities for authenticity, joy and inclusion. It will begin by establishing the link between healthy organizational cultures and high performance, both by individual employees and organizations as a whole. Then establish how culture impacts human experiences. You’ll gain skills to identify how your organization can move from IDEA efforts, from fixing problems, to build a community, learn best practices that have successfully engaged their organizations and practices that lead to greater belonging, and develop a deeper understanding of the human need for belonging.

>:
addressing unconscious bias is the author of Reinventing Diversity Transforming Organizational Community to Strengthen People Purpose and Performance and the Washington Post bestseller Everyday Bias Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives. His latest book, Our Search for Belonging, Power and Need to Connect, Connect Tearing US Apart. One The that 2019 Nautilus Award Gold Medal for Social Change and Social Justice. How to it is specialized the Synthesis synthesis neurocognitive social science research direct application, diversity, inclusion, equity accessibility. accessibility work this (INAUDIBLE) focus on the areas of corporate culture change, leadership development and managing diversity was successfully implemented large scale organizational culture change efforts in the area of managing diversity and cultural integration and academic institutions, professional service corporations, Fortune 500 companies, retail, health care, media and governmental institutions in 47 of the United States and over 40 countries worldwide.

>:
In addition, Howard has delivered programs at Harvard University Medical School, Stanford University Medical School, Johns Hopkins University, the Wharton School of Business, Duke University and Washington University Medical School, and over 20 other colleges and universities. Howard served as a 2007 to 2008. Johnnetta B. Cole Professor of Diversity at Bennett College for Women. The first time a white man had ever served in such a role at an HBCU, Howard founded Cook Ross, of the nation’s leading diversity and inclusion consultancies. He sold the company in 2018 found a Udarter consulting.

BEN:
Again, thank you for being here, Howard. So let’s just jump right in. What is this thing, belonging? We’ve been hearing a lot about it. What is belonging?

HOWARD ROSS:
Sure, thanks Ben. It’s good to be with you. I really evolved to this place and looking. I’ve been doing, as, you know, diversity, inclusion work now professionally for 35 years. And it’s evolved over time. And when we did a lot of the research that we did on unconscious bias over the years, one of the things I began to notice was that there was related research that kept pointing me in a different direction, maybe not a different direction, but more expanded direction. And that is that there’s this innate thing in us as human beings to want to belong, to want to fit in, to want to be part of groups.

>:
And we all feel it. I’m sure that everybody who’s listening feels this sense of when you’re with a group and everybody wants to do something and you’re the only one who doesn’t, that there’s this pull to go along with the group or vice versa. When nobody wants to do something and you’re the one who wants to do it, you feel like this pull to not do it. And so I became curious about that, particularly in the context of the polarization that’s occurring in our society and the kind of tribalism that we’re seeing.

>:
And when I came to is that this is a very important phenomenon for us to learn about. And that is maybe in one way to look at it is, our dear friend and colleague, Dr. Johnnetta Cole likes to say that diversity is being invited to the dance and inclusion is actually being allowed to dance. I like to say belonging is when you actually get to choose some of the music, when you’re really enough of a part of a group where your view voice matters at the deepest level. And so we might say if we looked at, what characterizes belonging, we might say there are really five things we’ve noticed when one is a sense of shared identity, another is a sense of shared destiny, that what happens to you may very well happen to me. So if you’re part of a company, for example, that you belong to and something happens to that company, it impacts everybody in the company.

>:
If you’re a member of an identity group, let’s say you’re African-American and somebody gets killed like George Floyd or Michael Brown and you’re that age or you’re that kind of person, it’s very possible that could happen to you as well. Then there’s also a sense of interdependence, and that is that what happens to you will affect what happens to me. And then the fourth is usually a sense of shared values that we usually have a generalized set of values. That doesn’t mean we agree on everything, but generally speaking, we have a container of values that hold us. And what we find is most characterized in those environments. And this is true whether it’s a family that’s really closely connected or that group of people you play ball with in college that you’ve never stopped being connected with, a book group you’ve had for 20 years. There’s ability to be yourself that usually what people feel a deep sense of belonging, that they feel more freedom, more sense of an ability to be themselves.

>:
They’re not going to be judged or discounted by the group or thrown out by the group for what they believe in. Now, in the workplace, what we’ve learned is that certainly through lots of research, is that belonging is incredibly important because, employees who feel a sense of belonging and sometimes it shows up in engagement studies, for example, tend to perform at a higher level, they tend to be more creative and innovative, they tend to be more inclusive, they’re less likely to leave the organization, they’re more likely to represent the organization positively, they’re more likely to treat customers and other stakeholders well. And all of that, of course, leads to organizational success and profitability. So, what I would… you got to put out to people, like think of those times, there’re people who are listening and think of those times that you found yourself agreeing with something or that you don’t really agree with in order to get along with the group, or you’ve done something or not done something to go along with the group, or you assume that something was just so because other people said it was so.

>:
I mean, I was funny, I was just on a road trip yesterday because we mother in in-law 90 and we went to a safe distance visit with her in Connecticut. And we’re coming back and just noticing.

BEN:
(CROSSTALK)that’s very impressive 90. Wow.

HOWARD ROSS:
Yeah, it is. And she’s sharp as a tack, too. So God willing, I could be that when I’m 90. (CROSSTALK)God willing I’ll be glad to be 90.

BEN:
Exactly. This days nothing is guaranteed.

HOWARD ROSS:
But as we’re driving back, down from Connecticut to Virginia, where I am now, we’re in traffic and traffic’s moving. And at some point I looked down at the speedometer. I was going faster than I thought. I realized it was not faster than I thought and I was just going with all the other cars around me, and then the cars have been slower. I probably would have been going slower to a certain degree, I mean, I think and so there is this pull. And what we realized was that while Maslow in his famous hierarchy, Abraham Maslow in 1943. He created his famous hierarchy with I’m sure most people know about his hierarchy of needs, where he said, that the physical needs are the first, our physiological needs are the first need that we have it in safety.

>:
Then belonging, then self-esteem, then self actualization that what we now realize is that Maslow made the wrong that belonging may be, in fact a prime personal need, which is one of the reasons, (INAUDIBLE) is such a problem. In fact, we know that being excluded from group triggers activity in the same regions of the brain, the dorsal posterior insula that’s associated with physical pain. So this notion of how do we create cultures of belonging in organizations and for that matter in society has become really important to me.

BEN:
So what are the eight pathways or best ways to create culture of belonging in the workplace or in an organization?

HOWARD ROSS:
Sure. Well, I think that one of the things that we have to recognize, of course, is that people come into our organizations already in somewhat of a fractured state relative to these different groups that we associate with. We have different groups that we connect to at a deeper level. Robert Putnam, the sociologist from Harvard, describes this as really two different groups, the groups that we bond with and the groups that we can potentially bridge with. So we tend to bond with people who we co-identify with who we’re really, really close to, and we automatically feel a sense of belonging. So that might be your family unit or people who are your closest friends or people you might identify with racially. So, for example, when African-Americans walk past each other on the street and give each other the nod, there’s an implicit message there. We’re in this together that there’s something common that we have together.

>:
And the same is true whether it’s Jews or women in certain circumstances or LGBTQ folks or whoever, often non-dominant groups had that sense of wanting to connect, wanting to feel like I’m not in this alone. So applies to dominant groups, of course, because our culture is generally reflective of the norms and cultural patterns of the dominant group. And so, but we know that the deepest sense of connections that we can create on a broader scale and I mean organizationally, can’t be limited just to those groups, because if we only limited to the groups that we have these bonded relationships with, then what we’ll end up having is cliques forming in our organization and tribes that form within our organization. In some organizations, of course, look that way. And by the way, it could be about things, too, like manufacturing versus sales or, or people in this office for versus in our So it could show up in lots of different ways.

>:
And so the key to really expanding our social capital, to expanding our network of operating is when we bridge into some of those other groups groups, so we begin to consciously create relationships with people who are different from us. And so this is why the work that we’ve been doing around diversity and inclusion and opening ourselves up to listening to each other and understanding each other to a deeper level. So mutually coming together as allies to work on issues, has become so important. And so we did study what are some of the ways that we can make that happen in organizations, how do we get past this tendency? And of course, our tribalism leads to us having biases against the other group that leads to us having judgments against the other group that leads to what’s challenging and threatening the other group. We certainly see that right now in society, around politics more than ever. That is no longer an issue of what do we disagree about from an issue standpoint is now you’re one of those kind of people.

>:
So what we found was that there certain things that can really contribute to developing this. And one is to start with the perspective. And don’t worry, Ben, I will get to the eight Pathways in just a moment.

BEN:
Oh no worries. Because I will join the conversation.

HOWARD ROSS:
Yeah, cultures together, there are a number of things that are there. It’s a little bit like a different form of Maslow different sort of hierarchy that at the core, it’s usually because there’s something threatening us, why would we change? We usually only change because something’s not working about what’s present. So maybe that might be the organization is not doing as well as we want. Maybe it might be that are external circumstances. Certainly COVID is provided that for some of us, that sort of thing, there’s often a common enemy, a threat from the outside. And that threat could be in other organizations, the threat of of competition in the marketplace.

>:
It could be a threat to our business that we haven’t seen seen, something new that we’re not ready to deal with that sort of thing. We usually have to have some sense of team since we’re all in this together and some organizations do this exceptionally well and others don’t.

>:
Some organizations really do a lot of work on team development and a lot of work on understanding the purpose for us being here. And it develops a strong sense of us rather than that transcends the natural us versus them that human beings fall into. Because one of the things that we discovered in the research and also in the neuroscience research is that it’s natural for human beings to divide between us and them. And so if we come in with an understanding of that, then we say, what do we do undo that? And one way is by making sure that people understand the collective gain, that if we all come together and accomplish something, then that can separate us from the us and them thinking and focus us on what we’re trying to accomplish. There’s a brilliant sociologist or psychologist, Elliot Berenson, who back in the late 60s created what he called the Jigsaw experiment, working with young children in the newly desegregated schools in Austin, Texas.

>:
And he found that when you tried to get them to understand each other, he wasn’t getting very far. When he gave them a jigsaw that they had to do, they had to get it done in order to pass some standard, the teacher told them. And the only way they could do that was by working with the other group, the white kids and black kids working together. It all (INAUDIBLE) kids put all those differences aside, rolled up their sleeves and got to work together. So this is one of the reasons that I think the workplace is one of the great ways that we can cross some of these boundaries. And then the last is that there’s a very clear mission or vision for leadership loyalty. So that I will start with. That’s the first pathway to belonging really that I identify, which is… and by the way, I would also acknowledge JonRobert Tartaglione, who wrote our research for belonging with me and provided some great research for it. And just a really brilliant up and coming practitioner himself.

>:
But so the first is that the organization needs to have a clear vision and a sense of purpose, and that is that people need to know why are we here? What are we doing? Simon Senex work on asking, searching for the why? Is a great tool and doing this because, it’s one thing to have people coming to work just because, we need a job. It’s something else to know that we’re doing something with this. I remember years ago hearing a story about somebody who comes up to three stone cutters in a quarry. And the first one is just drudgery, just banging a hammer with the look of drudgery on their face. And the second one is a little bit more focused. The third one is really enthusiastic. And so somebody comes up to the first one and says, what are you doing? He says, I’m banging rocks and I’m breaking rocks. Because of the second one. He says, I’m making bricks. And the third one says, I’m contributing to building a cathedral to the greater glory of God.

>:
You know, that sense that what I’m doing makes a difference and attaches into something bigger than myself is inspiring to people.

BEN:
And, I think a lot of people in our field are non-profit work, have that feeliing, that you’re working towards a greater good.

HOWARD ROSS:
Yeah, absolutely, and one of the challenges I think we found in a lot of diversity or in people’s reaction to a lot of diversity work, I should say, because I’m certainly not suggesting there was any negative intention on the practitioners who were doing this. But a lot of times when we continually focus on what’s not working, is where we get diversity fatigue because people have a limited tolerance just to be fixing things. And we know that where diversity and inclusion is concerned. Look at issues like race and gender, sexual orientation. These issues have been with us for a long time and they’ll probably be with us when most of us are finished. We hope to keep moving the needle forward. Now, what begins to happen is when you feel like people are trying to fix you, it actually triggers activity in that same pain region in the brain.

>:
And so, at some point, diversity fatigue sets in because it feels like you’re playing whack a mole. As soon as you fix one thing, something else pops up this is. I mean, we’ve just seen it societally. We thought we’re in a much better place than we are. We got Barack Obama elected president. My gosh. And now we’re in the situation we are now. And how does that happen? And we know if we study history, we know that history is rarely linear. It’s usually three steps forward, two steps back if we’re lucky. But nonetheless, that’s where a lot of diversity come from. But when people feel like they’re building something together, what’s the culture we’re trying to build? What is it going to look like? How is it going to serve this stakeholder group and that stakeholder group? How are we going to partner together? What accomplishment are we going to have in the marketplace? Or if we’re not for profit organization in accomplishing what our purpose is, then that’s really inspiring for people.

>:
And then the second pathway becomes, Okay, how do we create a container that we’re going to work and where we all feel safe? And so that involves, setting clear rules of engagement with each other, knowing that it’s safe for me to do this, because everybody has agreed that this is the way that we’re going to interact with each other, to know what the boundaries are. It’s a little bit like if you’ve got a child or a pet, a dog, let’s say, and you’ve got a backyard and you’ve got holes in the fence all around, you can’t really leave that child or the dog in the backyard unguarded for even a minute because they might wonder if one of those holes in the fence. But when that fence is secure, when the boundaries are secure around it and they create a safe container, you can let your child play in the sandbox and glance out there every five or ten minutes or so, know they’re likely to be safe. You can let the dog go out to do its business and not have to watch it every minute.

>:
So creating that context is so important as we begin to look at how do we create an environment where people can relax into it, I know what the rules are, I know what I need to do to be successful, I know what’s likely to get me in trouble around here, I know it’s when I’m invited to say, I know when I’m not invited to say. And the more we have those rules, the more people can. And that doesn’t mean, by the way, the rules are rigid necessarily. They can be adapted over time. But the clear they are for everybody and the more consistent they are for everybody, the more we can create that collective sense of belonging. Then the third path is that belonging at its core is more than a mental exercise. It’s a very personal exercise it’s very emotional. The ability to feel safe is very emotional. And so that requires creating an environment where people really can connect deeply, where there’s space for vulnerability, a greater sense of consciousness. And this is where things like you’re doing work about understanding your own biases are concerned.

>:
The watching out for shame and making sure that people aren’t shamed into withdrawing into themselves. And again, this is one of the challenges with some of the work that we started to do. When I started to do diversity work back in the mid 80s, a long time ago now, where we used to do work with two by fours. We hammer on people until they see the error of their ways. And if people admitted their faults and cried in the room was very cathartic for everybody. When you saw those people afterwards, a lot of times you realize, they say what they needed to do to survive, but they were often left resentful or frightened. And rather than opening up, they actually closed down. So well it was a pretty effective tool for getting people not to say and do stupid things. It wasn’t a particularly effective tool for inclusion because it often caused people to withdraw even more and protect themselves even more.

>:
So we want to open up that in a deeper sense of personal vulnerability and consciousness and keep moving forward. (CROSSTALK) Yeah, please go ahead Ben.

BEN:
Oh, I was just thinking of those videos from the 80s where unlike on Oprah or, when they brought in the specialists and the (INAUDIBLE) always have, the audience member or person in the classroom that would break down into tears after fighting the training for so long and then finally have that breakdown moment. And then you always wonder if that carried through to the rest of their lives, if what they learned stuck with them or if right after they left the show or the class, they just went back to the usual.

HOWARD ROSS:
Now, look, sometimes

>:
I’m not suggesting we don’t call out things for what they are. If we see something, we have to say something. But there are ways to do it and the ways to do it that open people up and there are ways to do it, to shut people down. And one of the challenges, of course, that we’ve had, and this is what all the research (INAUDIBLE) has taught us, is that most of the time, overwhelmingly most of the time, people don’t even realize how deeply these belief systems are embedded in their psyche and embedded in their way of looking at things. And we know this is not just individual, it’s cultural. I mean, we live in a country where racism fundamental issue of the way this country is developed for 400 years. We know that gender has been here for as long as there’ve been men and women who have been gender dynamics. And we could go on and on. And the point being that we’re all influenced by that.

>:
We’re influenced by the experience of growing up in this culture and we’re influenced by how that has us see ourselves and how we see other people and influences, where we feel safe and who we feel safe with. It influences the judgments we have around other people. And the more we can be vulnerable and feel safe enough to look at those things, the more we can actually transform our way of looking at things.

>:
And that’s why the fourth pathway is inclusion and enrolment, and that is to really look at how we can support and develop not just ourselves but other people, how we can understand other people and really listen deeply to what their experience is, even if it’s counter to our experience and listen to it as their experience and then figure out a way that we can, in interaction with each other, find both the commonalities and the challenges in the way we approach to take on being an active ally when you’re not in a group, particularly a non-dominant or underrepresented group. And even when nobody’s looking, it’s… I mean, I’m not talking about performative allyship or what a lot of people are calling performative brokenness. Now you’re sticking a Black Lives Matter bumper sticker on your cars and isn’t being an active ally. I mean, it’s great. It’s nothing wrong with showing support in that way. But that, is that all you do, a lot of corporations who have jumped out on this kind of a thing.

>:
Are you also doing the work you need to do in your organization to move it forward, to be willing to challenge the normative patterns of behavior and say, we’ve been doing this, this way for a long time, but without even realizing it the way our schedule is set up, it actually makes it harder for people who are parents and are responsible for their children, which largely means women in our culture. Right or wrong, largely that means women. For example, right now, a lot of organizations are struggling with the fact that many of the people who work for them are home schooling their kids essentially at the same time as they’re also working. So can you have staff meetings at 4:00 in the afternoon or 5:00 in the afternoon after school hours are over so that those people can participate fully without having to feel like they’ve got… I know I talk to my own children about my grandchildren. And even when they’re older, they still need some support sometimes.

>:
And let alone my seven year old granddaughter who put her at the computer and my daughter in-law goes to work. And within 15 minutes, my granddaughter is like wonder go ahead to do something else. And she’s a good student. So, I mean, so that’s a great example. Are we willing as an organization and as allies to ask the courageous questions, to be conscious about equity in the decisions we make or to leverage some of our personal capital to advance others? All of these things are part of the inclusion and enrolment conversation. And I know that there are, of course, many people out there listening to this, who do this work and have their own body of work, which speaks to this brilliantly and really supports people in this way as well.

>:
So and then the fifth pathway is to really consciously, both individually and as an organization, to conscious, active, open minded thinking, to really put ourselves in a circumstance where we’re really going through a conscious process of questioning some of our beliefs. So we select an issue and then really look at why that issue is important to us and understand why we have a point of view about that. And see, is that consistent with how other people might have a point of view, to really stop and evaluate the evidence behind our point of view and see whether it’s really accurate and holds up to scrutiny or does it just fit our story? And I think this is one of the challenges that we have now, is that usually people have already decided their point of view in today’s world rather than deciding their point of view based on evidence. They’ve already decided their point of view and then they cherry pick the evidence that justifies that point of view, to really actively consider the evidence and opinions that are encounter to your stance.

>:
And then when you do that to them, look at your original stance and say, should there be some modifying here? Is there a way to accommodate legitimate alternative points of view? No, I’m not saying that, that means that there always are, because sometimes you may go through the whole process and say, damn it, I think I’m right about this and I may feel really strongly about this. And a lot of times people misinterpret, especially politically when I talk about this, that say that well, this is like a false equivalency on both sides. That’s not what I’m saying at all. Am just saying are we really sure that we’ve checked out our point of view? And if we do, because I have no problem having a strong point of view as long as I remember it’s a point of view. And that’s really important.

>:
And then one of the things that we found is really helpful in doing this, is when we can develop shared structures and forms of communication so that we’ve got regular ways that we share information that we know are very inclusive. And in a lot of people have access to, that organizations in which people have an opportunity to sit down and share what’s going on with each other. And what have you heard and how does that information sync up? And this is particularly true, by the way, been in the environment we’re in now, because we’re also Zoom fatigued that in a lot of organizations, what I’m seeing is that people are… They’re clipping things shorter and shorter, so we’re tired of being on Zoom, so we’ll have our staff meeting. We’ll just be all right. Hi, everybody. Let’s get right to work and get this done.

>:
And what we miss are the watercooler conversations, the conversation on the way to and from the meaning the cup of coffee or tea that you have with somebody after the meeting or the lunch you go to or the sitting around before the meeting, just shooting the breeze and talking about did you watch the game last night or what was your weekend like or that sort of thing. And also, how are you? You look a little tired. You’re doing okay, well we don’t want to see that through. So creating those shared structures can be really important. And it’s especially important for leaders right now, I think, to reach out to people and check in and see how they’re doing. The seventh one, is that we really… that we honor narrative. Narrative is such an important part of people’s lives. That I remember there’s an old story I heard. I read one time. It was by Gregory Beetson, a famous anthropologist, is once married to Margaret Mead, an extraordinary anthropologist in his own right.

>:
I forget which of his books I read it in. But there was a story that he told about, somebody creates a computer and they assert that the computer thinks like a human being. So they want to test it. And so they set the computer in motion and the computer spins and words. And this is the old days of computers took up a whole room. I think he wrote the story in the 40s or something in the 50s. And so the computer wheels turn it on and spits out a little piece of paper on the piece of paper. It says, I have a story to tell you. And he says, now, we knew that the computer was actually thinking like a human being because, that is the way we think as human beings. We think through the narrative of our lives. And that narrative is, of course, shaped by our own personal experiences and the experiences of people like us, things that happen to people like us.

>:
So when we look at things like the 1619 project, the narrative of the black experience in the United States from 1619 to the present, it’s so important now. I know recently, of course, the president has written this executive order saying that people should not be teaching that stuff and cannot be teaching that stuff in diversity work. And I, in fact, gotten caught in the crosshairs because of a piece in Dr. Cole and I delivered at the Dr. Johnnetta Cole and I flivver for the Treasury Department was was cited by this extreme right wing guy. And he’s written pieces on the actually today in The Wall Street Journal before that in The New York Post and all these different places, saying that this is about separating people, but it’s actually completely false. First of all, so much of what he wrote in his narrative or either relies on this information or misinterpretations are taken out of context. I don’t want to take the time to go through that. But the larger question is, how do we understand what’s going on now without understanding what got us here?

>:
great historian, once said that those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. And I think we see that we’ve had 400 years. And I’ll just use this as an example. We’ve had 400 years of the history of African-Americans in the United States in 17 generations. 345 of those years, those folks were legally not considered, I should say. You folks then were not considered to be citizens, were not considered to be equal partners in this democracy legally, either through slavery or then by legal segregation. It wasn’t until 1964, 66 years ago or 56 years ago rather that, that change. And so to suggest that we could have that going on in this country for 17 generations and then, of course, we know that the impact since then, it’s not like we’ve had equity since that is towards Floyds family knows for sure, sadly, so many others,

>:
That suggest that that, that affect what we’ve learned about ourselves, what we’ve learned about each other during that time is just is in the same sense as my family. family heritage Jewish and my family came from Eastern Europe and we had significant Holocaust lost. And and suggest that that, that affect the perspective of Jews today in the world, having that so recently in our past would be just ridiculous. And yet that same period of time in nineteen 1945, had Jim Crow in the United States. We had people who were being abused in the United States. We After time we had Emmett Till, you in fact, of course, the Nazis took a lot of their practices from Jim Crow laws in the United States. So we can… anybody who would say that that Nazis doesn’t affect the way we do see ourselves today.

>:
And what we see as dangerous and potentially dangerous would be forced in the same sense to suggest that the story that African-Americans have lived through hasn’t affected all of us as well. And I want to be clear when I say that doesn’t mean we’re bad people. It just means we’ve been raised in a particular narrative in which so much is not talked about, that we don’t have a real sense of history. And the more we can honor that narrative and give it the attention it deserves, the better we’ll have mutual understanding and be able to move forward. Now, of course, the last one is in order to do this, we have to have some tools. The last pathway that is, that we have to have some tools to deal with the places where we have conflict to deal with how do we negotiate some of these differences? Because if we tell the truth about these experiences and we open up, as I’m suggesting that we do, if we’re allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and transparent with each other, then we’ll find that we have vast differences.

>:
As a white man, it was confronting when I realized how much privilege I have because, it wasn’t like I asked for it, it wasn’t like I said, hey I want more than they do. But the culture calls on being differently, especially as a tall white man, that people and I see it in hundreds of little ways that it happens. I walk up to a counter and knows that… Just recently, this happened walk up to a counter there’s an older African-American woman standing there a few moments earlier, I walk up and the person behind the counter asks me first, can I help you? We look at the fact that I have four sons, all of whom have gotten driver’s licenses when I taught them to drive. I never had to worry about suggesting to them what they needed to do if they were stopped by a police officer to stay alive. And yet every person I know, every African-American I know, has that conversation with their teenage children.

>:
So these are all aspects that the culture has given me. We talk about it is privilege and that sort of thing. And that’s why when people hear these words, white privilege and white supremacy and now more currently white fertility, it sounds personal. It’s why so many people, I think, are defensive about it. It sounds first what do you mean I have white privilege? I grew up in a trailer park. I grew up with very low income environment. Yeah, that’s all true. But the culture still calls us to be a particular way. And again, it has nothing to do with being a good person or a bad person. You could be the best person in the world, really a kind person, and not even realize how much of this stuff is embedded in you. So we need to learn to negotiate this. And one tool that I like to (INAUDIBLE) people with is, it comes from a woman named Elizabeth Lester, who was one of the co-founders of the Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, New York. And it’s called Take the Other to Lunch.

>:
That’s… I’ve adapted it a little bit, but it originally comes from person want to honor her contribution, and that is you choose somebody who have a different point of view with and you get together and you agree on a couple of ground rules. And the first is that you don’t persuade, defend or interrupt each other. So your purpose is not to convince them, but instead, the second is to be curious, authentic, and just listen to really get it from their experience. So you’re really listening to the same. But I want to understand you from your perspective and I want you to understand me from my perspective. That in and of itself is a breakthrough, because most of the time when we come into conversations with people, we differ with, we there from the start to convince. And so we listen for how we can make our point rather than listening to understand the other point of view. And then it’s very elegant and simple system. But I like to call it a profound simple tool.

>:
In other words, it’s simple, but it may not always be easy if you don’t want to meet them.

BEN:
Exactly, I was going to say it sounds easy though, but…

HOWARD ROSS:
Right, exactly. So let’s say you have it. So then what you do, is you set up in your four different questions you ask each other and you (INAUDIBLE) and it’s best to try to give each other roughly the same amount of time. So in other words, if you take 10 minutes for this, I have 10 minutes because that avoids having one person talk over the other person. What’s going to be a power dynamic sometimes. So, and by the way, I’ll share an example how to use this. I had a conversation. I was asked to mediate between, after something happened in a community leadership program here in Washington in a number of years ago, where there was an African-American man in the group who said in the group that at his church, they’re taught that being gay is a sin.

>:
And one of the gay men it happened to be white, got offended by that and it ended up being a big upset for the group. So they asked me to sit with these two guys and I did. So the first question is, what are some life experiences that have led you to feel the way you do? And in this particular case, the gay man told his story and it was not an unusual story. If if you know very many people who were LGBTQ and that is he grew up, came out or realized who he was when he was a teenager, came out to his parents, his parents, where were generally pretty supportive. It wasn’t 100%, but they were generally pretty supportive. And he went on to talk about how he dealt with different kinds of challenges in his life because of that and times when he felt scared and threatened and the like.

>:
And again, not unlike the experiences that many people have had and now is with a partner he’d been with for 17 years and they’d adopted two children. And he was concerned about,

>:
So the sacrosanct for that is the second question, which is what issues deeply concerned you? And in this case, the gay guy shared that he felt threatened by homophobia and diminished by people calling him a sinner just because this is the way he is and that sort of thing. And the other guy shared that. Well, I’m worried about what this means about the structures of families. Again, not unusual comments, but they were speaking from a different place now because they had already recognized each other’s humanity while they still disagreed. And then the third is, what have you always wanted to ask someone from the other side? And this was one of the almost funny but also really poignant moments of the conversation because at some point, the straight guy asked the gay guy. He said, So when did you decide you were gay? And the gay guy looks at him and he says, When did you decide you were straight?

>:
And the guy says, I never did. I just always was. And the gay guy says, Yeah, me too. And the straight guy at that moment for the first time, got the difference between sexual preference and sexual orientation. And it was almost like you can see his jaw falling, like I never thought of it that way. And from that point on, all of a sudden… I’m not saying his views changed radically that moment, but from that point on, he was like, wow, I never thought of it that way. And that leads to the fourth point, which is the one that I’ve really added to this model and I think is a really important one, which is is there anything you’d like to say to, quote, clean up the past?

>:
Because, in a lot of cases… excuse me, even though we’ve moved on, we haven’t gone back and taken responsibility for some of the things that we do before we move on to a new way of thinking. So in this case, for example, what the straight gentleman said to the other guy says, look, I want to acknowledge that there’ve been times when I’ve listened to things like jokes or comments that people have made, which I realize now listening to you are really demeaning and that I certainly wouldn’t want to hear any of those about me as a black man. And yet I haven’t done anything about that. So I want you to know, first of all, that I apologize for doing that. I want you to know that my word in the future, I won’t do that. I won’t sit there and listen to those kinds of things and I want to invite them around. So this is the conversation that can be really healing. Now, things don’t change automatically.

>:
But about a month after this conversation, the two of these guys went back to the group of 60 or so leaders that they were working when the incident happened and sat down in front of the room side by side and facilitated a conversation with the entire group. So I think that there are possibilities for us to have enormous breakthroughs. But ultimately, the key, the connective tissue to all of this is to be willing to realize that sometimes we can get so stuck on being right that we forget about being happy or successful. So we need to be willing to acknowledge wrong and willing to apologize. And that’s oftentimes when some of our calcified patterns break down.

BEN:
That is really powerful. And that’s a great story overall about how important it is to just take a stop for a minute and just think about what the other side is, the person on the other side might have experienced and what led them to the peace that they have and just really be able to see eye to eye on things. It’s difficult. It’s again make that sound a lot easier, we’re just talking about that?

HOWARD ROSS:
Yes.

BEN:
Well, when you see it actually happen, they can be so powerful.

HOWARD ROSS:
That’s exactly right. And that’s exactly right. And I think that’s why we’re so inspired, when we see stories of people who have transcended their differences. So when we see I remember when Pope John Paul was… John Paul II was shot by an assassin and I remember a picture of him sitting in the jail cell with that guy and talking to him, you know, or some of these amazing stories that we hear about people who can turn towards these circumstances as learning experiences and forgiveness is, of course, a piece of this. Now, I don’t want… I really want to be really clear that that doesn’t mean that everything is forgivable, or that we should set the standard. That’s really difficult when people have been harmed and somebody’s taken from their lives, you know, and George Floyds family has every right to feel whatever they feel. They’ll never get him back.

>:
And just forgiving doesn’t bring him back. So I can understand how they feel with him, what they might feel. But the more we can reach across these barriers and be able to create some sense of mutual understanding, the greater chance we have to create cultures of belonging for everybody.

BEN:
Thank you so much, Howard, for that wonderful podcast and great conversation. If you’d like to learn more, please feel free to visit their website. Udarta.com. You can listen to more forum podcast at our website or more workspace.org or (INAUDIBLE) podcast. Or you can also find us on Apple’s podcast, Spotify Anchor and Stitcher. Thank you so much for listening. Have a great day.

SPEAKER 1:
Thank you again for listening to the Forum on Workplace Inclusion Podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast to get updates in the latest episodes. Also, tell us what you think by reviewing our podcast. We’d love to hear your feedback. For more information, visit us at Forum Workplace Inclusion.org or search Workplace Forum on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Thank you very much and have a great day.

>:
The Forum and Workplace Inclusion Podcast is recorded at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, one of the most diverse private colleges in the Midwest. Augsburg University offers more than 50 undergraduate majors and nine graduate degrees to 3400 students of diverse backgrounds at its campus in the vibrant center of the Twin Cities and nearby Rochester, Minnesota. Location, Augsburg educates students to be informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers and responsible leaders. In Augsburg, education is defined by excellence in the global arts and professional studies, guided by the faith and values of the Lutheran Church and shaped by its urban and global settings. Learn more at Augsburg.edu.

The Forum on Workplace Inclusion®
2211 Riverside Ave, CB 54
Minneapolis, MN 55454
workplaceforum@augsburg.edu
(612) 373-5994

Photos by Sarah Morreim Photography
Privacy Policy