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 with friends

Commit to thinking before you speak

We often use insensitive language out of habit or to be funny, not because we intend harm. But, insensitive language – which can include jokes based on stereotypes – can easily make some people feel unsafe or excluded. It is easier to break this habit when you and your friends can commit to thinking before you speak — at least reminding each other that “there is probably a better way to say that.” Check out some language to be mindful of in our Questions to Self-Reflect.

Talk about it

If a friend makes a hurtful comment or poses an offensive question, it’s easy to shut down, put up walls, or disengage. Instead, try to show that you’re committed to strengthening your relationship, and that part of that is communicating about the things that make you uncomfortable. Say something like “Hey, I felt uncomfortable when you said ____ the other day. I really value your friendship, and wanted to talk about it with you.”

“We all have more in common with each other than differences, and more than anything, everyone wants to see their family loved and taken care of.”

Read Meredith and Nakware's Story

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.

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 has a different perspective than you.  Invite them to grab coffee, or join you and your friends the next time you hang out. 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.

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.

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.

Create a culture of listening

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 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 group of friends that every opinion matters.

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.

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.

 

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.