A Coaching Power Tool By Sharee S Wells, Career Obstacles Coach, UNITED STATES
What Is the Purpose of Exclusion vs. Inclusion?
As children, my siblings and I were known as creative thinkers. As we grew older, like most people, we discovered that certain routines and attitudes worked to get us what we wanted or needed. So, we replayed those for success in satisfying our desires. Eventually, though, the routines and attitudes took over as habits. I couldn’t think of new ways to look at things as I was stuck only thinking in the usual way. I am not alone. I encounter close-mindedness nearly every day – from friends, family, clients, strangers…
This habit of excluding new ideas challenged my life. You know the old saying from the 1980s Narcotics Anonymous brochure:
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
I kept doing the same things or planning the same things, expecting different outcomes; thus, I kept failing to get new or better results. So did many people I ran across. We would bewail our fates in sympathy with each other. A sudden death then forced me to try something different. The phrase today is to “think outside of the box,” meaning that we open ourselves to seek answers that are not the usual fare. Sure enough, trying something different got me different results! Open-mindedness is one powerful Power Tool. Let me explain.
What We Know and What We Don’t Know
We know that thinking there is nothing new to add to the picture or the options leaves us exactly where we are with no growth, and no change. We know it, and still, we do it. We begin to feel hopeless and helpless. If we feel that way often enough, we develop a firm conviction that justifies our feeling. However limiting it is, it becomes our belief. “I’m not good at _____.” “I can’t ________.” “I’m so bad at ________.” I’m not worth _________.” If we believe only certain thoughts and never consider new ones, the beliefs hold us back.
When I opened my mind to new thoughts and ideas, I gained options and more chances of success. Risking new, even strange-sounding ideas reminded me that I can do most things set before me. I learn new skills with every job or task I undertake. I prove to myself that I can do surprising things. Inclusiveness has allowed me to assist thousands of clients to open their minds to new career opportunities, to network more broadly and effectively, and to grow.
What Is the Difference Between Exclusion vs. Inclusion?
Merriam-Webster defines the transitive verb exclude:1a: to prevent or restrict the entrance of b: to bar from participation, consideration, or inclusion, 2: to expel or bar especially from a place or position previously occupied.
That’s the verb, the action word. As a noun, exclusion is preventing or restricting entry, barring participation, consideration, or inclusion, and expelling from places or positions previously occupied. In other words, exclusion can mean closed-mindedness.
What is the benefit of closed-minded exclusion? Exclusion can be helpful or harmful. It is helpful when we set boundaries for ourselves to focus on choices or live more happily. If you want to buy a car, you choose an amount you’re willing to spend, a size you require, and perhaps whether it will be a standard or automatic shift. Then, from the millions of cars available, you can exclude those that don’t meet your criteria to focus your search.
Harmful exclusion is when your fear of something or someone overrides your ability to choose; it becomes first, avoidance or worse, hate. Ultimately, it becomes a habit and is done without thinking.
The effort involved in helpful exclusion is minimal and empowers us to deal with information and values. We set our criteria, exclude what doesn’t fit, and focus on our choice of an action or thing. Simple. On the other hand, the effort involved in harmful exclusion can be constant, confrontational, exhausting, heavy, and depressing.
Exclusion can make us think we are safe. From what, you ask? From what is different, unfamiliar, The Unknown– excluding those, we’ll think we are safe from a change in general, loss of control, authority, standing, and anything unnerving.
We exclude things, people, and thoughts. We think that makes us safe or protected from loss or what we fear. We consider “safety” to be of benefit. We hold tightly to it, even if it leaves us with a constant worry that it may not be permanent. In fact, we are left with another fear: the fear that we must be ever on the alert for the original fearful thing to return. This we know as a “vicious circle.”
Exclusion due to fear is not only damaging to individuals but also to whole societies. Think slavery, genocide, and war. In its most extreme applications, it can lead to isolationism, polarization, and terrorism.
On the other hand, Merriam-Webster defines the transitive verb include:1: to take in or comprise as a part of a whole or group2: to contain between or within
As a verb, “include” expands a position. The noun, inclusion does as well. Inclusion takes in, comprises as part of a group or whole, and contains between or within. These results are created by welcoming open-mindedness. So let’s look at that. What if a more open, inclusive attitude was applied to our choices? Would that be likely to create new ways of thinking and doing?
Exclusion vs. Inclusion in Society
Inclusion frees you to experience with curiosity and without fear, anger, or exhaustion. It helps you to gather and be open to considering all the information needed for a decision.
Inclusion liberates our thinking. That open-mindedness may appear exciting. It may even include the enticement of being a little risky. It does dare us to consider The Unknown. When we look at our history, it is easy to see where open-mindedness has spawned innovations that changed our world. Cooking with fire, the wheel, flying planes, exploring, then trading with other lands, splitting atoms… Looking inclusively, we clearly see the entire picture–the possibilities, the situations where caution might be useful, and past times where closed-mindedness hindered.
My mom is an example of inclusiveness in forging relationships. She was a natural at inclusion due to her upbringing and she made it intentional while bringing up her own children. On all school holidays, she went to the area colleges and universities to ask if there were international students who could not go home for the breaks. She said they were welcome at our home on the condition that they each bring a tradition of the season to share with her children. We had a large, renovated Victorian home, and holidays began to look like an international youth camp with people everywhere – native Americans, Africans, Asians, Canadians, Europeans, Latinos, Middle Easterners, residents of other U.S. states, and more. Together we experienced food, music, worship, clothing, family, and social customs for holidays of all sorts. We learned about the students, their cultures, and a smattering of their languages. They learned about middle-class white Americans and each other. We all improved our communication skills. It was a mutual exchange of ideas and experiences. Our visitors became “family” – lifelong friends with whom we could discuss difficult topics without rancor but as a means of educating ourselves. Of course, there also has been the bonus of visiting them and continuing to share experiences whenever we traveled. I cannot help but think that the world would be a much friendlier, more respectful place had inclusive, welcoming experiences like this been a part of more people’s lives growing up.
Examples of the outcomes of inclusive thinking that created innovation run throughout history. Here they are told from the life story of another of my family members. My father’s mom was born in the early 1900s in her mother’s bed, with no hospital or health professionals attending. Educated in a one-room schoolhouse in Arkansas, she became the school’s teacher when she was 16 years old. Her dad gave her a ride to work every day on his horse. Between the time of horse travel and car travel, she met and married my grandpa. They rode around in a Model T Ford. When she died at age 97, she had seen the world go from horse travel to space travel. She had cooked on logs, a pot-bellied stove, gas, and electric ranges, and in a microwave oven. She washed in icy water from the rain barrel outside her home, heated water on the stove to bathe in a copper tub in the kitchen, and took showers with hot water on demand in her 1940s home. She phoned people from an operator-generated party line at the town’s general store, a private line with a push-button dial in her home, and she spoke on her grandchildren’s mobile phones. She listened to programs on the crystal radio as well as the television set with a VCR and watched silent movies, IMAX films, and home videos. She’d experienced life during two World Wars, two wars in which her sons fought (Korea and Vietnam), and at least nine other conflicts where the weapons and systems vastly changed the manner of warfare around the world. It’s possible that her generation may have seen the most changes in history so far. For sure, all those changes happened because various people thought inclusively enough to create the things that changed the world.
We continue to see new ideas developing: the J. Crew brand of suits that don’t wrinkle; the iPhone that made phones a tiny computer everyone can carry around; Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems like Salesforce that built new ways of doing business via cloud computing; health improvements; energy innovations in wind, sun, water, and nuclear power.
These are but a few of the myriad examples of how thinking from a perspective of inclusion makes a positive impact on individuals, groups, businesses, industries, societies, and economies. When people have been open-minded in their approach to dilemmas, innovation happens. When people did not allow fear or old habits to prevent them from saying, “Let’s do things this way instead!” matters improved for them. On a grand scale, the changes not only affected their own fields of expertise but the entire world of business, economy, and society. On the individual level, inclusion changed stuck-ness to creativity, hate to acceptance, and thinking by rote to thinking freely and confidently. In fact, exclusion closed the ability to think while inclusion opened it.
Opportunities for Growth in Exclusion vs. Inclusion
Everyone can think of exclusion and inclusion examples from their own experiences. “Stuck-ness” comes in every system, field, industry, and relationship.
Exclusion permits nothing new or different. Only those things that are the same, known or familiar are allowed. Exclusion is often based on fear. When the fear is great enough, even familiar things, people, situations, and ideas may not be permitted. This attitude closes the mind and slams the door to new methods, solutions, and opportunities.
Inclusion permits new ideas and different people, situations, and things. Everything is available when things, ideas, people, and situations that are different, unknown, or unfamiliar are welcomed. Open-minded attitudes are generally based on self-confidence, which can be learned and developed over time to build and share a quality of life.
In her tireless efforts to live well, Biddy Mason was known for saying:
If you hold your hand closed, nothing good can come in. The open hand gives in abundance; even as it receives.~Biddy Bridget Mason (1815-1891), a former slave, free person, entrepreneur, millionaire, philanthropist, and founder of the first AME Church in California.
There is sufficient proof that using the power tool of Exclusion vs. Inclusion, turns a closed mind into an open mind. It allows for creativity and growth. When we stop excluding things that are unusual, unconsidered, unexpected, or odd, we can include, respect, and accept new, different, innovative, stretching, and growth opportunities.