Triggered? How DEI Can Help You Navigate Tough Conversations 

We’ve all been there. We’re minding our own business, going about our day when suddenly something someone says or does sets us off. We might feel our heart rate spike, our face flush, and our stomach tense up. We might even feel like we’re about to explode. This can be a scary and overwhelming feeling. You may feel like you’re going crazy or that the other person is to blame for your reaction.  

If you can relate, this post is for you. Take a deep breath and relax. You’re not going crazy, and the other person isn’t at fault. This is called being triggered—and it happens to all of us. Triggers can be especially tough to deal with at work. We spend a lot of time with our colleagues, and we may not always see eye-to-eye with them. When we’re triggered, it can be difficult to keep our cool and have a productive conversation.  

This is where DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) comes in. DEI context can help individuals understand why they may be getting triggered and equip them with the tools they need to have difficult conversations. DEI can also help create a more inclusive workplace for everyone.

Navigating Critical Conversations  

If you’re feeling triggered by a person’s behavior, perspective, or even an initiative at work, here are a few DEI-informed tips that may help you navigate the situation: 

 Take a step back and try to understand where the other person is coming from. DEI can help you see things from multiple perspectives and empathize with others, even if you disagree with them. It will also help you identify unconscious biases impacting your ability to see the situation clearly.

 Once you’ve taken a step back, DEI can also help equip you with the language to have a challenging conversation. DEI vocabulary can help foster a more productive conversation by ensuring everyone is on the same page. It’s important to be clear about what you’re feeling and why.

 An example of DEI language would be using terms such as “privilege” and “oppression.” These words help to start a difficult conversation more constructively. They frame the conversation around power systems and how people can be disadvantaged or advantaged because of their identity. This helps to avoid assigning blame and instead focuses on creating change. 

 DEI can also help create a more inclusive workplace for everyone. If you feel like you’re constantly being triggered at work, it might be time to reevaluate your current DEI plan or put one in place to create a more positive work environment for everyone.

How will you navigate triggers and tough conversations?  

There are three approaches when it comes to navigating uncomfortable DEI conversations. 

 Which one will you take?  

One – “It’s my way or the highway. If you can’t get on board, you can jump ship!” (I know this is not you.)  

Two – “We should stick to how we’ve always done things. If something is too triggering and disruptive, let’s redirect our focus because we don’t have the time, energy, or resources to do a company overhaul to solve the problem.” 

 Three – “Wow! Okay. I never saw it that way. What I’m hearing is that you would prefer I call this out so we can have a more effective DEI plan. I’m open to hearing your suggestions on how we can make our workplace more inclusive for everyone.” 

 I recommend approach number three! A successful DEI strategy starts with uncomfortable conversations – it’s the only way we’re going to be able to create real, lasting change.  

 Get triggered, get over yourself, and let’s move forward together into a more inclusive workplace! 

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