How to Call People In to Foster DEI

Calling people in can be a more effective way to foster DEI

Loretta J. Ross’ Ted Talk “Don’t Call People Out – Call Them In” explains the harmful effects of calling people out. Pointing out people’s flaws and mistakes in a public situation can be damaging to the ego. People, especially those who are insecure about their level of knowledge around DEI, usually get defensive and find excuses for their behavior, and eventually fully retreat from the conversation. Calling people in, however, can be a very helpful tool to help people learn from their not-so-great behavior, take accountability, and get better. 

I highly recommend listening to Loretta J. Ross’ full talk and I particularly appreciate the end when she shares the story of her Uncle Frank. Uncle Frank makes a problematic racist comment at a family dinner and people get uncomfortable. No one says anything as many microaggressions go uncorrected. Loretta chooses to speak up and say “I know you to be a good guy, and what you just said is harmful because…” This framing invites Uncle Frank to be better. It doesn’t shame or blame him. Everyone around the table sees him as a good person, and her phrasing explains the impact of his behavior. He then has a choice to align his behavior with the good person he is or not. The choice is his.

It is not a matter of if an exclusionary behavior occurs, allies are carefully watching for when they occur. Exclusionary behaviors, sometimes labeled as microaggressions, are guaranteed to happen. It’s critical as an ally to not only keep your radar up, but have some key models to rely on to call people in on their behavior and ensure it doesn’t happen again.

How YOU can call people in

My ally and DEI practitioner Bernadette Smith has a really helpful model to call people in. She calls it the ARC method:

  • Asking is about being open and inquisitive; asking good questions to better understand someone’s issues, struggles or position and then listening intently
  • Respect is about actively listening and then accepting the input provided or data with an intention to honestly gain insight from it.
  • Connecting is then providing appropriate responses and actions

So when you might get nervous or your amygdala is firing in fight or flight mode, take a deep breath and think about a good question you can ask to show curiosity. Balance your tone with real respect for the person and find ways to connect through establishing common ground versus pointing out differences.  

Another ally, Kristen Pressner, has a Ted Talk “Are You Biased? I am.” In her talk, she explains being confronted with her own bias when dealing with promotion decisions at work, as well as at home with her own children. She offers a solution – The Flip it to Test it model. The model is helpful in calling people in on their microaggressions. 

When you find yourself in a situation where you hear something that doesn’t quite feel right or you’re unsure if your bias is at play, simply flip the genders, races, abilities, sexual orientations, etc. and see if that assumption still makes sense. For instance, if you’re assessing an applicant’s potential based on their gender. Saying something like “he’s a go-getter he’ll be a great fit here” or “I’m not sure if she has enough experience let’s see if she can do that again.” Flip the script. Would we say the same thing if someone’s gender identity was different? If not, there is probably some bias at play. If the answer is yes, you are probably safe.

DEI is messy. There’s always room for different interpretations. These models are not perfect. Someone could always interpret something differently than you would. Having a model helps call people in when 

you might be uncertain of what to say or do. Silence is the enemy as an ally. 

Use the 3 D’S model to hold someone accountable

Our 3 D’S model stands for Define, Discuss and Decide. In a conversation where you’re trying to hold someone accountable, it’s important to define the issue upfront, have a two-way discussion that’s truly inclusive of all perspectives, and decide. Often we leave the conversation emotionally-charged and forget to make a decision about what the learning or next step is. To hold someone accountable, there must be a commitment to a shift in future behavior so that it doesn’t happen again.

Here’s an example of how the 3 D’S model could work with an exclusionary behavior situation. Let’s say you’re in a social situation where someone keeps interrupting someone with a diverse background. You practice the Flip it to Test it model and after the third Interruption, and agree that this would not happen to a White man. Time to invite accountability as an ally. 

Make a quick game plan mentally before pulling the person aside with the 3 D’s:

  • Define: What is the issue or challenge? What does success look like? What is the objective or purpose for the conversation?
  • Discuss: What is your perspective? What is their perspective? What do you have in common? What is different? 
  • Decide: What are the commitments? What are the next steps? How can you continue to show up as an ally with them?

Simply pausing to reflect and think about mindful questions and facts you could use to support your point of view will help you have a more productive conversation. Instead of letting an issue go unresolved, facilitate a conversation with the person exhibiting problematic behavior. Do not come to the conversation as an “expert”, come ready to have a dialogue. That person needs feedback to grow and learn and it is likely they did not know how problematic their behavior was. By calling in someone who made a mistake versus calling them out, you’re more likely to foster that dialogue with that person and encourage self-growth as an ally.

Want to do better, and not sure where to start?  That is why we developed the Lead Like an Ally virtual self-paced training program, perfect for organizations struggling with accountability for diversity. You can also check out all of our other virtual and live program offerings.