3 Tips to Bounce Back After a Challenging DEI Conversation

As companies continue to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion, it’s inevitable that some conversations may not go as well as we’d hoped. There will be differences of opinions and situations where our emotions may get the better of us. When those situations arise, it’s important to find a way to continue to work together and avoid creating a toxic relationship or workplace. Check out these 3 tips to help overcome and move past an uncomfortable DEI conversation. 

Lean in to the uncomfortable

Don’t ignore what happened. Minimization will only create more distrust and allow a negative situation to fester. Acknowledge that the conversation took place, that it was not productive, and your role in its direction. We all make mistakes, especially in the heat of the moment when tensions are high. This is an opportunity for self-reflection so with an objective lens, consider what the mistake was and what you could have done differently. 

Share the impact of the conversation

Talk to the individual/s involved. When meeting with the parties involved, set some ground rules for the conversation that center around your mutual respect for each other as colleagues. Blaming and shaming should not be part of the conversation. Make sure to use “I” statements to help convey how you felt. It’s important to acknowledge the impact of the conversation versus its intent. Be sure that you are listening to feedback and are seeking to understand the other person’s perspective.  

Agree on a path forward

Together, discuss how you might handle disagreements in the future. Agree that each individual is in control of their emotions and reactions and decide how you will constructively move forward. You may decide that you’re approach is to agree to disagree, pause the conversation to be able to better respond, or use a specific key word or phrase when the discussion has escalated. Once you both feel comfortable with how the situation was addressed and have agreed on a path forward, move on. 

If you don’t feel comfortable having a one-on-one conversation with the individual involved, consider asking an unbiased third party to mediate. If the issue persists and escalates further, you may need to bring the issue to your manager or HR if needed.

We can all learn from even the biggest mistakes and an apology and willingness to improve go a long way in mending a negative situation. Be kind and empathetic to yourself and the others involved, most importantly, don’t let this derail you from future conversations!

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Beth Ridley is a former corporate executive turned organizational transformation consultant, speaker and author. Beth combines 25 years of global leadership and management consulting experience with expertise in diversity and inclusion and positive psychology to partner with leaders to transform workplace cultures to better achieve their vision and goals. Beth’s work is featured in national publications and she frequently delivers keynotes and workshops at events around the world. Beth lives with her husband and three children in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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