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Creating Spaces of Inclusion and Safety: Inside and Out

Updated: Nov 20, 2023

This week I attended The Coaches Forum Retreat, hosted by Trudi Lebron and The Institute for Equity Centered Coaching. It was a 2-day immersive with coaches from around the country coming together to advance diversity, equity and inclusive coaching practices. There was thought-provoking discussion, data, team exercises, and time to reflect and process the work.

One of the themes that really resonated with me was the purposeful act of presenting, coaching or just being from the place of inquiry and curiosity, not judgement and shame. I’ve spent much of my career practicing curiosity instead of judgement, but the idea of inquiry and shame intrigues me.

When I think of Inquiry and curiosity, it’s easy to think that they are the same. And while they are synonyms, curiosity is more of interest in learning new information and passive, while inquiry is seeking the new information and more active in nature.

Both are important when creating an equity centered approach- we need the passive mindset of curiosity and to actively seek by taking action. So how do we activate both of these? I have some ideas:

  • Curiosity is a practice. It takes work, muscle and intent. “We are naturally born judgers” was a theme I learned of from LeadQuest, a leadership behavior consulting firm. In order to combat the judgmental tendencies, we need to evaluate our behaviors and understand their impact on others. Curiosity is a life-long goal with progress and set-backs along the way. It takes patience, grace and perseverance.

  • Inquiry takes courage. It asks us to take that mindset and put it out in the world. It also takes skill to ask our intent in a way that is safe and void of judgement. I’ve always been a big fan of scripting, and it can be great practice to help our language come across safe and curious.

Putting judgement and shame together is fascinating to me. It made me realize that shame is judgement, and usually a nasty judgement at that. If we are committed to being curious with those around us, doesn’t it need to start with ourselves? Easier said than done. I’ve written about shame recently and have evolved my thinking based on these last few days:

  • If shame is judgement turned inward, then the first step is to turn curiosity and inquire inward too. Asking ourselves curious questions with love and grace can help us get to the root cause of these harmful judgements.

  • Speak to yourself as you would a child. I’ve said this one before, and I believe it now more than ever. We would never speak harshly and shamefully to a child, so why speak to ourselves this way?

  • We give grace all the time: to clients, to loved ones, to acquittances. We need to give grace to ourselves too. What does that look like? It could be forgiveness, acceptance, understanding, or unconditional love.

As you give this more thought and evolve your diversity, equity and inclusion intentions, here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • How accepting do I think I am of diverse points of view and environments? What evidence do I have?

  • What are my blind spots in this space?

  • How do I want to show up? What needs to change or evolve?

  • How can I listen deeper in a space of curiosity?

  • What do I have to overcome in order to have the courage for inquiry?

  • What is the shame I am keeping that could impact my judgements?

  • What are some small steps I can take today to be more curious and less judgmental?

As I digest more of the work we did at The Coaches Forum, I will share my lessons with you. I am excited to do the work around inquiry, curiosity, judgement and shame. As you dive in, share your learning with us- I’m looking forward to growing together!

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