If there is one book that I believe that the entire world needs to read right now, it’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen R. Covey. Toward the beginning of the book, he introduces the concept of a paradigm.

A paradigm is “a cognitive framework shared by members of any discipline or group”, according to Dictionary.com. Our paradigms include our views, options, beliefs, values and observations.

As we navigate solutions to overcoming racism, it’s important to remember that we will only make real progress when we make an effort to empathize with people who have different paradigms than us.

Company leaders have a tremendous opportunity to build real trust with people of color if they are intentional about conversations and messaging in the workplace. Here are some thoughts:

Cultivating Productive Conversations

  • There are many people of color who are angry, sad and scared right now. When any human being experiences these emotions, it’s extremely difficult to focus, communicate and respond to everyday things.
  • When we feel emotions like that, it’s often because we don’t feel listened to and that our power has been taken away from us.
  • Commit to listening to what’s on their minds with the goal of understanding them. If you do this from a genuine place and not a “we need to do this to shut them up” place, then everyone wins. It’s not going to be easy or pretty, but it will be authentic.
  • Practice asking questions to help you understand. For example:
    • “What do you see happening that I don’t see?”
    • “How do you think you are perceived by us?”
    • “What do you feel we need to be doing that we are not doing?”
    • Or simply say, “Help me understand.”
  • Commit to regularly investing in Diversity & Inclusion training. This will ultimately make everyone more productive and your company more profitable.

Responding to Inappropriate Conversations

It’s important to clearly define inappropriate conversations, address them head-on and decide how you are going to take action. As easy as that sounds, there is an inherent conflict that is coming up in these decisions:

Preserving Policies vs Public Perception

Preserving policiesis being consistent with formalities that have already been established in your company.

Public perceptioninvolves the current expectation to show your corporate responsibility by being loud about your commitment to anti-racism.

In my opinion, it’s important to be able to separate the two in your mind as you make decisions. Both are extremely important and both can work together. This simple awareness will help everyone make better decisions when issues with unacceptable behavior arise.

Striving for Effective Messaging

  1. Create a message that articulates your company’s commitment to anti-racism and anti-discrimination.
  2. Let your people know that you don’t support racism and BE LOUD about your commitment to not supporting it, along with your policies on preventing it.
  3. The more public you are about this (putting these up on the website), the more trust you will build with your employees and your customers/clients.
  4. Provide mental health support for people who need it and encourage them to take advantage of it.

IMPORTANT:Please understand that no matter how much consensus you get around the messaging, there will be some people who have a problem with it or say it’s not enough. The real test of its effectiveness is in how consistently you follow through on whatever messaging you decide on.

In Closing

As a mental health speaker and writer, I spend most of my time supporting HR leaders and Diversity leaders around workplace mental health initiatives. One of the reasons for the stigma surrounding mental health is that mental health challenges are confusing, complex and frustrating.

Through exploring the subject of stigma, I have learned that a critical key to transforming it involves having uncomfortable conversationsand awkward conversations.

We don’t like uncomfortable and awkward conversations, but they often accelerate us to a place of understanding.

Navigating racism is no different.

I invite you to take this amazing opportunity to examine your paradigms, while making a genuine effort to understand the paradigms of people of color. Finally, remember that even among people of color, we all have unique paradigms on how we have experienced racism and how we see it now.

One of the best ways that you can show love to another human being is simply to genuinely listen to them and make sure they feel heard.

About the Author

Mike Veny

Mental health speaker and best-selling author Mike Veny delivers engaging presentations with raw energy and a fresh perspective on Diversity and Inclusion. He shares how he went from struggling with mental health challenges to being a thought leader that travels the globe telling his story to help transform stigma.

He is a highly sought-after keynote speaker, corporate drumming event facilitator, author, and luggage enthusiast. Seriously, you’d completely get it if you did all the traveling he did!

Mike is the author of the book Transforming Stigma: How to Become a Mental Wellness Superhero& The Transforming Stigma Workbook. As a 2017 PM360 ELITE Award Winner, he is recognized as one of the 100 most influential people in the healthcare industry for his work as a patient advocate.

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