The intersections between inclusion and well-being

The road to inclusion is fraught with beliefs to rethink and skills to develop. From those in the intrapersonal realm to the skills needed to relate effectively with others.

Photo of three young women sitting together at a table with their laptops, laughing.

However, rarely does anyone tell us that in order to develop the capability to include, we first have to feel well ourselves.

As part of their Thought Leadership Series, Latham & Watkins LLP, a close DSE’s ally, presented the Creating Sustainable Inclusion and Sustainable Wellness webinar.

The speaker was Dr. Arin N. Reeves, President & Principal of Nextions. And according to Dr. Reeves’ research, inclusion is hard to achieve when there is no wellbeing.

This hypothesis can be easy to test. Let's think about it, when do we feel the greatest propensity to think or act inclusively - e.g., actively listening to a colleague or stopping to help someone with a task they find complex - when we feel good or when we are overwhelmed with uncomfortable emotions?

Being inclusive requires us to understand and care for the other, which we call empathy, and according to Reeves, empathy takes a lot of energy. When we are not experiencing well-being, we usually have to invest our energy in those areas of our life that are causing us discomfort.

For Dr. Reeves, well-being refers to a correct administration of our energy, that is, to distribute it and apply it in the areas that allow us to fulfill ourselves. This idea follows Maslow's theory, who affirms that human beings have basic needs that must be met before thinking about fulfillment, which are related to physical needs - home and health - and emotional needs - perception of security and belonging.

When our physical and emotional needs are met, we can use our energy to fulfill ourselves: reaching goals, achieving outstanding performances and dedicating ourselves to cultivating meaningful qualities such as inclusion. Inclusion exists in the basic, emotional need to belong, which is in fact a tribal instinct. Whether we like it or not, and even if we consciously try to disengage from our colleagues, our brain interprets as the tribe those people with whom we spend most of our day, and who are often our colleagues.

Dr. Reeves warns us about the dangers of not belonging. The less perception of group belonging we have, the more time we spend employing our energy on correcting this, and we usually do so by sacrificing our authenticity, trying to hide or camouflage ourselves with the group, which takes a lot of energy and prevents us from excelling at a higher level of achievement.

What happens then is what is called inclusion exhaustion, which does not allow us neither to learn nor to contribute enough to fulfill ourselves because we are busy using our energy to belong.

What to do then?

Dr. Reeves proposes different tools to take care of our well-being and manage our energy better.

The 3 scans

It consists of getting into the habit of doing a personal check-in by scanning 3 areas that have a direct impact on our well-being: our environment - is there anything around us that makes us uncomfortable? From the temperature of the room, the clothes we are wearing or the numerous notifications on our cell phone that are distracting us. Our body - do we experience any physical pain or discomfort that throws us off balance? And our emotions - are there any emotions that put us off center?

Making conscious decisions

Reeves invites us to make a couple of conscious choices to improve our well-being. For example, if we don't really like to drink water but need it, she suggests we put a bottle of water in our workplace and determine to drink it during the workday.

People who make conscious decisions about their well-being on a daily basis are people who tempt to develop their awareness and find it easier to see and correct biases in their personal lives, which encourages inclusive behaviors.

Detecting energy leaks

This tool is based on the consideration of how, if we have 100 energy points per day, we would spend them on which activities. How many energy points does my family demand from me? How many points do meetings with my colleagues demand? How many points do I spend on writing reports?

The proposal is then to be able to reorganize the day and try to perform those activities that demand more energy, during the moments of our day when we have more energy and lucidity.

Apart from these tools there are many more, but I believe that the central idea of Dr. Reeves is of great value, however we practice it: in order to include others, I must first take care of myself, constantly review my well-being, make conscious choices and make modifications that bring me back into balance.