Recognizing Emotions Around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

June 10, 2021

Consider the following definition from the financial dictionary:

In risk management, the act or strategy of adding more investments to one’s portfolio to hedge against the investments already in it. Ideally, this reduces the risk inherent in any one investment, and increases the possibility of making a profit, or at least avoiding a loss.

Financial diversification is all about adding different investments to a portfolio to make it stronger.

Similarly, biodiversity is about how species richness in an ecosystem will lead to reduced risk of loss, more resilience to shocks, a healthier environment, and greater sustainability. Each organism in the ecosystem plays a critical role, and without it, an ecosystem faces risks and possible irreversible loss.

Promoting financial and ecological diversity do not usually evoke strong emotions yet talking about workforce diversity can lead to heated conversations, angst, fear, conflict and overall resistance.

Perspective is everything

A portfolio or ecosystem can be thought of as a workplace.

The individual stocks or organisms, people.  It’s statistically and scientifically possible to evaluate how diversity and inclusion can strengthen an overall system, meaning we can use our emotions – reality testing – to recognize the same relationship. For those who don’t accept diversity, or strive for inclusion and equity, it might be useful to take a more objective look at the benefits.

Question: What other emotions can help us promote and accept people who might be different from ourselves?

Answer: Self-awareness, flexibility, and empathy to begin with.

Thoughts lead to emotions, and emotions to actions.  If we think diversity is a bad thing, or a threat, then we will feel negative emotions.  

We first must recognize the emotions that we and others feel around DEI – are they negative or positive?

If they are negative, what’s the source of those emotions?  

How can you challenge them?  

If they are positive, how can you help others to feel those emotions and to promote acceptance?

Second, it is important to be a flexible thinker. Consider a rather innocuous example – you have been driving the same route to work for years. What if you tried something new and went a different direction? 

You might see something inspiring; you might take more time to relax; traffic might be lighter.

When you allow yourself to change, and in fact, embrace change of thoughts and emotions, you will often find benefits and joy in being creative.

The same can be said for accepting people with different ideas, backgrounds, cultures and languages for example.

Finally, promoting and embracing equity and inclusion requires empathy. Put yourself in someone’s shoes and imagine what it might be like to be the “only” person at your workplace with your characteristics.

Consider being surrounded by people who speak a different language, have different cultures, look different, and have different backgrounds. 

How would you feel?  

What would you think? 

How would you like people to treat you? 

Your expectations should form the basis of your actions in accepting others.

A final note: while diversity is important, it’s not about adding any stock to your portfolio, or introducing a new organism into an ecosystem.

That doesn’t make sense financially or ecologically any more than it would for a business organization. Adding someone different for the sake of it, or to “tick the box” is merely lip service.

Challenge yourself to think differently, and challenge others – you will be richer for it.

Register for our self-paced short course to examine DEI principles and learn relationship management strategies to build a more inclusive culture.  Discounts available for groups! Contact us at