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From Critical to Curious: How to Navigate Complex Conversations

I thoroughly enjoyed having a conversation with my friend and colleague, Susie Silver, about her background and navigating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work in tense and complex times. While a tough topic, it is a much-needed conversation.

Susie is a senior consultant and innovation strategist at the Diversity Movement, located in Raleigh, NC. She is a LGBTQ+ subject matter expert and a certified diversity executive. Coming from a background in public education, she started her DEI journey about 8 years ago and is motivated to turn her story into one that generates action and change.

While the original plan for our conversation was to discuss LGBTQ+ inclusion at work, as it is important to have those conversations year-round rather than just in June (Pride Month), a few days before our conversation, the conflict between Israel and Hamas began. Given this context, we focused on what it means to be a DEI practitioner in moments like this one, with Susie sharing her insight on how to do this work in times of intense conflict.

Watch the video below to hear our livestreamed conversation or continue reading for a quick recap!

What is the role of DEI practitioners in navigating global conflict?

As situations arise around the globe, whether it be the conflict in the Middle East or any other global issue, emotions run high, and organizations may come to their internal or external DEI practitioner looking for guidance on what to do in response.

Susie recommends first taking a moment to reflect internally. What does diversity mean to you? How does that affect your relationship with others? How does that set your drive and your purpose for approaching difficult situations? Taking this moment of self-reflection can be centering and allow you to understand how your own emotions may play a role in your approach.

The next step is taking the time to become educated. As lifelong learners, it is important to take the time to understand a situation, critically assessing where the information we are consuming is coming from and holding ourselves accountable to at a minimum know the context.

It is also essential to know your own boundaries. Making a point to take a break from social media and connect with your community, whatever that means to you, is an essential part of the process. Check in with those you care about and others on your team and give space for others to process what they are going through without judgment, but still holding others accountable.

How can organizations respond to communities facing tragedy?

After increasing your personal understanding as a DEI practitioner or anyone in an organization that is tasked with this work, you may be asked to advise the organization on how they should approach the communities who may be under duress based on these tragedies.

Often, organizations are reluctant to engage in conversations around issues that have been labeled “political.” But, as Susie points out in our conversation, often organizations use “politics” as a scapegoat to avoid having to make difficult decisions or engage in meaningful conversations. So often, these issues come down to humanity, not about politics.

When you refuse to say anything, either internally or externally, that sends a message loud and clear to people both inside and outside your organization that you are more afraid of what could happen to you as an organization than you are of what is already happening to people and the real danger those people are in. It is always important to show a commitment to DEI, but especially in times of crisis.

What can organizations do to help create Better Humans @ Work?

Susie recommends a few keyways that we as humans and as organizations can move towards more meaningful conversations and to the end goal of creating Better Humans @ Work:

  1. Move from a critical mindset to a curious one. If you find yourself coming from a place of criticism, pause and challenge yourself to approach the situation with curiosity. Ask questions and take the opportunity to learn.

  2. Shift from conflict to collaboration.When you find yourself in situations of conflict, take the opportunity to swap into a collaborative mindset. What opportunities are there for you to grow together rather than apart?

  3. Engage and amplify voices to help us understand each other.Shift the focus from yourself to others, or from “me” to “we”. Understand the other voices in your organization and community to help others know that they are seen, safe, and heard.

If you want to know more about Susie and her work, connect with her on LinkedIn.

Looking for guidance on how to have productive DEI conversations in your organization? Contact Mattingly Solutions to learn more about how we can become your trusted partner, helping you create a more inclusive workplace. Together.


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