Inclusive language acknowledges different people and creates positive environments where people feel involved. Exclusive language limits involvement and creates barriers between people. Inclusive language uses positive words to support and encourage others, whereas exclusive language demeans, insults and demotivates others. To communicate inclusively, use terms that will be understood and respected by people of different backgrounds, refer to people by the names they wish to be called and eliminate language that suggests men are the standard for all human beings (e.g., use both masculine and feminine pronouns). Avoid stereotypical statements (e.g., “you people”) and actively attempt to get other people involved (e.g., invite a new person to lunch or ask the opinion of someone who doesn’t speak very often). Simply stated, anything you can say to promote the involvement of a diverse array of individuals on a consistent basis is inclusive language.
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Dr. Tyrone A. Holmes is an author, speaker, coach and consultant. He helps his clients develop the skills needed to communicate, resolve conflict, solve problems and improve performance in diverse organizational settings.