Exclusion Literally Hurts©

The following is a guest post by Sonia Aranza, Award-Winning Global Diversity & Inclusion Strategist
Neuroscience research indicates that being excluded from a group triggers activity in the same regions of the brain associated with physical pain.  What’s more is that even people who consider ourselves as champions of diversity and inclusion also exclude.  We readily justify.  Our justifications sound reasonable.  Yet, when we look closely, these justifications reveal unconscious biases that come from a lifetime of conditioning.
I was curious to apply the research to my own experience so I went back down memory lane and revisited times when I felt excluded, especially in my work life.  Words like hurt, lonely, angry and demoralized described what it was like.  I got it.  No wonder the regions of the brain associated with physical pain are triggered when someone is excluded!
In a self-imposed dare to be fully known to myself, I wanted to see how I might exclude others, even unintentionally.  In one example, I became aware that I have “go to” people who I regularly engage.  I do so without regard to those who are not my “go to” people.  I began to wonder what happens to the development of my “non-go to” people?  What is the impact of my unintended exclusion on their morale and productivity?  What is the impact of their underutilization on my organization?
Rigorous honesty helped me to “get real” with who I am.  I believe that we are the architects and engineers of our environment.  I aspire to build inclusive environments where people can unleash their talents and everyone can benefit.  Confronting a lifetime of conditioning is vital but not easy. I use the action steps below to help me.   The steps are simple but everyday I am reminded it will require a lifetime of practice.  The alternative is to be complicit in inflicting pain which is not a very good alternative at all.

  • Self-Observation: Observe yourself in every interaction.  What goes through your mind when someone disagrees with you?  Notice what you notice about yourself.  What you become aware of, you can begin to address.  It’s hard to manage what you don’t know.
  • Investigate: Explore the origins of your habits of thinking.  Where do your beliefs come from?  What do you associate with different groups of people?  How has it become a barrier to becoming more inclusive?
  • Challenge Yourself to Evolve: Nature shows us what happens to species that do not evolve.  They perish.  Commit to your own evolution.  Be willing to grow.  Life is brief.  Make yours count.

© Copyright 2017-2027 Sonia L. Aranza.  All rights reserved.