Over the last year, I have had an accelerated awakening of how to engage in the dismantling of the inequities in our society. As I write that statement, I feel a great sense of responsibility to move from learning to action.
As I mentioned in a recent blog, “How do we actually ‘Be the Change We want to See?’”, I recently completed certification in Conversational Intelligence®. This certification strengthened my understanding of the impact that words have in building or dismantling trust. One aspect of completion of the certification was a capstone project.
I challenged myself to explore how to use C-IQ tools and skills in the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) context. Many of the C-IQ skills have built my capacity to act when I experience or witness microaggressions. The greatest challenge when experiencing or witnessing a microaggression is to regulate our reaction so that we can educate and raise visibility about bias and move toward establishing equity.
Within .07 seconds of being 10 feet of someone(1), our brain is determining if this person is a friend or foe. If there is any indication of how the person looks, acts, speaks that seems unfamiliar, the amygdala in our brain pumps cortisol to protect us and we go to the primitive section of our brain. The primitive brain saved us from the lions when we were in the earliest stages of human development. Cortisol has a shelf-life of 26 hours(2), leaving a lasting impact on our perceptions. This is how bias begins to form. We have the capacity to deprogram and unlearn our bias and Conversational Intelligence® provides these tools by examining the neuroscience and the impact words have on our experience.
I recently attended the Racial Justice Summit hosted by the YWCA Madison with more than 800 participants to deepen my learning through workshops and presentations from nationally-known speakers, Climbing PoeTree and Annahid Dashtgard.
Climbing PoeTree was a powerful duo sharing spoken word, rap and poetry “as a tool to expose injustice, channel hope into vision and make a better future visible, immediate and irresistible.”
Annahid Dashtgard, a Toronto-based educator, led a session highlighting the framework of her recently published book, Breaking The Ocean: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion and Reconciliation. She approaches EDI work from a lens of belonging:
“Belonging is our birthright. It straddles the individual and systemic levels of existence, toggling between the psychological truth that we are all the same and the political truth that we are divided by access to power.”
Dashtgard believes that we have to regain our wholeness internally before we can work toward changing systems externally. When we experience belonging, we are activating oxytocin and the parasympathetic nervous system which allow us to calm ourselves and shift the external environment. When we feel exclusion, we are in a state of vigilance, activating cortisol and our reactive nervous system.
As I processed Dashtgard’s challenge to the conference participants, I could delineate the C-IQ skills that support the process of building bridges of inclusion and belonging:
Making the Invisible Visible: Bringing attention to the unseen dynamics and patterns in conversations, and engage in dialogue to shift these patterns.
Deconstructing Conversations: Examine what was said, how it was said and the impact it had on the receiver, in relation to the intention of the sender.
Co-regulation: Partnering to down-regulate cortisol and fear, and up-regulate oxytocin and trust. This skill builds a foundation of co-creating a new reality.
How do we begin? We begin from the basis that we are all the same in wanting to belong. Start with self and understanding: When do I feel like I belong? When do I feel excluded? Once you are able to identify the micro-signals of belonging and exclusion, you are building your social-emotional literacy to give words to your experience. This gives you the ability to use Conversational Intelligence® skills to move from the personal experience to the institutional and systemic levels to reduce the barriers that create inequity.
The journey of transformation of our global society requires that each of us individually take steps to restore our individual wholeness and collectively shift the external environment. Together we can co-create a culture of belonging.
Together we can co-create a culture of belonging.
Let’s connect to chart our path toward this new reality.
(1) “Within .07 seconds of being 10 feet of someone, our brain is determining if this person is a friend or foe. ” — Page 103 of Conversational Intelligence by Judith E. Glaser
(2) “Cortisol has a shelf-life of 26 hours, leaving a lasting impact on our perceptions.” — Page 104 of Conversational Intelligence by Judith E. Glaser