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If We Stop Talking About Inclusion, We Stop Learning

Consider this pattern in your personal and professional world, you are having a conversation and you start to say “something” and you stop. Something inside you hears, knows, has heard, or believes that you may be saying something that is incorrect, insensitive, or “wrong”. And you stop speaking.

Where does the question go?

It gets hidden. When you add up all the hidden conversations we are not having out of fear or shame, lack of knowledge or understanding you will know why many diversity and inclusion initiatives are failing. People STOP speaking instead of learning to communicate, be curious, ask, say it wrong, fall down and get back up.

People tell me it feels like people are waiting for them to fail so that they can correct and criticize, when what they want to do is practice, learn, and listen.

If people feel shame or fear and hesitate before they step into a new conversation or topic, then learning is shut down.

If our goal IS learning, knowledge, and understanding then we need to build bridges, not barricades to conversations that create real change.

We are all practicing – it is how we learn to do anything, here are some tips for practice:

  1. Notice – when you have that feeling or you decide not to say anything – ask yourself what is making me hesitate?
  2. Curiosity instead of shame: how can I have my thought or question with curious kindness, not apology and shame, lead with “I’m still learning…” vs  “I’m so sorry I don’t know…” the brain actually tells our bodies it’s safe to proceed. THIS is where learning happens.
  3. Open the space – if someone is struggling, using language, tone, or knowledge that you do not find acceptable, open a discussion not a demolition.

I am not writing this from an ivory tower or textbook, I’m writing from experience on both sides. In the world of diversity and inclusion, people often assume I have all the “right words” and all the knowledge, knowing that I don’t makes me human and kind.

I have been called out, shouted at, humiliated, and shamed for not using the “right” words, and every time it made me think – I am not a good person, and that is not the truth…like everyone, I am learning. I am grateful to those who continue to build bridges for my learning, there is NO finish line on inclusion.

Walking with curious kindness.


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Brandi Heather
Brandi Heatherhttps://www.brandiheather.com/
I have always played outside the lines. With a Master’s degree in Physical Education and Inclusive Curriculum development. I've taught 1000’s students at colleges, universities, community organizations, schools, and businesses the value of inclusion, most often by helping them find first the value in themselves. I was often considered the quirky college professor who taught the "soft subjects" alongside the serious academics. I was known for showing up to a class with carts full of “unusual tools” including playdough and plaster to teach kinesiology, communication, and human service principles. I thrived in spaces where people didn’t quite fit because often, I also did not quite fit. My goal is not to make every space and person the same but to demonstrate the strength of difference. I am a Therapeutic Play Specialist, I speak locally and internationally on the power of play for growing from diversity to inclusion and igniting innovation and engagement in all levels of education, business, and community programming. In 2018 I left the world of “college professor” to start a journey into entrepreneurship. I have fallen down many times to get back up and do what I love. In the past 10 years, I have founded award-winning not-for-profit and for-profit businesses grounded in diversity and inclusion, mental health, and play. I am now my own company, Brandi Heather Consulting, helping to build organizations where people want to be by unleashing the extraordinary potential of people. I unpack the aversion to playing and unstructured play by utilizing the science of play to change the way we take care of ourselves, connect with others, and solve some of the greatest social challenges of our time. I wrote Return To Play, Rebuilding Resilience, Risk and Reconnection in 2021 to share my lived experience, passion, and dedication to getting the world back “in play".

DAILY INSPIRATION. DELIVERED.