Every day, we have the ability and opportunity to create a more accepting world. Even small acts of inclusion can have a big impact on making others feel accepted. Click the spaces below to see the many ways you can encourage inclusivity.

Show me how to act inclusively in my community

Start a conversation to create deeper connections.

Just because you may appear to be different from someone on the surface doesn’t mean you can’t connect. Use the conversation starters on our Questions to Connect page to get to know someone who comes from a different background or perspective than you. Invite them to have a meal, or just say hi when you run into them. By taking the step to have a conversation and make someone feel welcome, you get to know them on an individual level and might even make a new friend. You’ll also be encouraging others to do the same.

Consider your actions and reactions

Are there certain people you don’t feel quite as comfortable approaching, sitting next to, or talking to? For example, people with disabilities sometimes find people staring at them, or looking away and acting as if they’re invisible. People from a number of racial and religious groups also find that people avoid them on the street, lock their car doors, or clutch their belongings as they walk by. Instead of avoiding eye contact or walking across the street, engage with people as you normally do. If it’s appropriate, include the individual in the conversation and encourage others to engage in an open, inclusive manner.

Members of a baseball team push Ethan, a young boy with ALS, along the third base line

“When a community is open and inclusive, it allows us to push our kids to not be afraid. We can honestly tell them ‘you can be who you are and do whatever you dream.’”

Read Ethan's Story

Model neighborly behavior

Welcoming new neighbors into the community with food, a card, or just by introducing yourself can go a long way towards helping someone feel included. Making a point of engaging with your neighbors, old and new, enables you to stay connected with the people around you — and contributes to a neighborhood that values connectedness over exclusion.

Consider whose voices are (and aren’t) represented

At community meetings or gatherings, ask yourself, “Who is at the table? Whose voices are missing?” and consider ways to incorporate diverse perspectives into the conversation. If you don’t feel that diverse perspectives are being represented in your community, have a conversation with whomever is in charge to see if you can brainstorm solutions together.

Use inclusive language

Using appropriate and respectful language helps those around you feel included, and can set an example for the people you come into contact with. For instance, you might ask new acquaintances which pronouns they use for themselves or use the word “partner” instead of boyfriend/girlfriend. Check out this article on communicating to reduce gender bias, and these communication guidelines relating to ability.

Support businesses owned by underrepresented groups

Look for opportunities to try restaurants or support businesses that are owned by marginalized or underrepresented groups. Chances are, you’ll discover something new to love — and you’ll be able to spread the word and engage friends and family to do the same.

Work together

Taking action by yourself can be intimidating. To make it easier, try enlisting the help of friends and commit to taking inclusive action together. Form a group to promote inclusion in your community or reach out to a new group of people and invite them to join you in something you’re already doing.  By working together, you can widen your sphere of influence, and invite more people to join your circle.

Appeal to allies or the neighborhood association

If you witness biased behavior, contact the neighborhood association and ask if there are any policies in place to prohibit that kind of behavior. You can also appeal to allies within the neighborhood who can help you address the situation and keep an eye out for repeat instances. By working together, you can help each other create a neighborhood that is welcoming and inclusive towards everyone.

Recognize or thank people who act inclusively

When someone makes you feel supported or included, let them know that their inclusive and supportive behavior is noticed and appreciated. This type of positive acknowledgement helps everyone to recognize the importance of their actions and encourages them to take more inclusive actions in the future.

 

Offer support

Sometimes letting someone know you are an ally is all it takes to make them feel safe and included. It doesn’t have to be a public display. Take a moment to pull someone aside or send a quick text or email — it can be as simple as saying “Hey, I saw what happened earlier; is there anything you need?” or “I’m always around if you ever want to talk about the way that experience made you feel.” When you chat, always reinforce that they are never to blame if they become the subject of biased behavior.

Respond to biased language

It’s not always easy to know how to respond when you hear or see something offensive. One approach is to ask questions like “Can you tell me what you meant by that?” or “What information are you basing that on?” By responding calmly and engaging others in discussion, you can clear up any misunderstandings and create opportunities for further conversation. If you want additional tips, check out this guide on Challenging Biased Language from our partners at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Anticipate and rehearse

If you think you may find yourself in situations where bias is likely to arise, try rehearsing possible responses like “Do you think some people might find that language hurtful?” or “What information are you basing that on?” Having a few responses at the ready will help you react quickly and confidently when the moment arises.  By responding politely but firmly, you can lay the groundwork for a productive conversation while also making those who are experiencing bias feel welcome.

Create a culture of listening (in your community)

Be a role model by making sure that everyone has a voice and that all perspectives are being considered. If you see that certain people in your community aren’t being included in conversations, make a point of reaching out in group settings or follow up individually afterwards. Ask questions to show that you’re engaged. In leading by example, you’re reinforcing within your community that every opinion matters.

Talk to the owner

If you overhear someone using biased language in a restaurant or a store, ask to speak to the owner or manager. Describe what you heard and ask that the situation be addressed to avoid making other customers uncomfortable. The owner was likely unaware of the situation and will often want to take steps to make sure everyone always feels welcome in their place of business.

Encourage feedback

Set up a process that allows those in your community to express their needs, ideas, and perspectives. Be willing to learn, accept feedback, listen to the concerns of those around you, and implement new practices as needed. Even the most enlightened individuals have room to grow, and you have the ability to establish a culture of openness.

Turn mistakes into growth opportunities

None of us are perfect, and we’re all going to make mistakes at some point. If you do, simply apologize. You can say something like “I’m really sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking and realize that my actions were hurtful. I could make some excuses, but none would make up for telling such a tasteless joke. I hope you accept my apology.” While making a mistake in front of others can be embarrassing, it can also be a perfect opportunity to model an appropriate response.

Explain how bias makes you feel

Instead of labeling a comment as offensive, try to explain calmly how it makes you feel. You might say “I know you didn’t mean to, but that made me uncomfortable because…” or “I’m not sure what you meant when you said that.” By sharing your personal experience, you make others aware of the impact of their actions (even if it’s unintentional) and create opportunities for further discussion.

Reconsider stereotypes

Stereotypes are oversimplified images or ideas about social identity groups — for instance, older adults are sometimes assumed to be “bad at technology. And while this may seem harmless, stereotypes are overwhelmingly inaccurate and can negatively impact decisions around employment, education, the justice system, housing and financial services. By taking time to reconsider stereotypes within our communities, and to question whether the assumptions we are making are supported by real evidence specific to an individual, we can work to ensure everyone is valued fairly.

Join together

Find friends who share your goal to create an inclusive environment. Consider forming a resource group or taskforce to implement and maintain policies that address inclusion and diversity issues in your community. By working together, you’ll have a greater chance of succeeding. The larger your group, the easier it will be for others to practice inclusivity.