By Jessica Epperson
Jessica Epperson is Program Manager at IntelliBridge, managing a wide range of programs for the Department of Homeland Security. As a leader in IntelliBridge’s Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging (DIEB) team, Jessica plays a crucial role in cultivating a work environment that embraces diversity and inclusion while fostering effective communication.
In an age of digital communication and polarizing opinions, maintaining a sense of civility has become more important than ever. National Civility Month provides an opportunity for IntelliBridge and its employees to reflect on the importance of respectful communication and promote healthy dialogue. As we observe this month, it is crucial to acknowledge that civility goes hand in hand with fostering diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging.
By promoting open and constructive dialogue, we can continue to create a workplace environment that embraces differences, values every voice, and works towards a more equitable and inclusive future. In this article, we will explore the significance of National Civility Month in relation to diversity and inclusion and provide tips on having uncomfortable conversations that contribute to a positive and inclusive workplace culture.
What is National Civility Month
National Civility Month has a rich history rooted in the recognition of the profound impact that respectful and civil communication can have on society. Its origins lie in a growing need to counteract the rise of incivility, polarization, and divisive rhetoric. This month-long observance aims to promote the value of empathy, understanding, and constructive dialogue in our personal interactions, workplaces, and communities.
National Civility Month calls upon individuals to reflect on their own behavior and communication styles, encouraging a commitment to treating others with dignity and respect. By embracing civility, we can foster inclusive environments, bridge divides, and create a society where mutual understanding and collaboration thrive. It serves as a powerful reminder of the transformative power of civility and the role we can all play in shaping a more harmonious and compassionate world.
Why National Civility Month Matters
Communication is the bedrock of healthy relationships, both personally and professionally. In the workplace, civility cultivates an atmosphere of trust and respect, leading to increased employee engagement, reduced conflict, and improved overall performance. It encourages individuals to listen actively, embrace diverse perspectives, and find common ground, fostering a sense of belonging and inclusivity.
Navigating Uncomfortable Conversations
While fostering civility in the workplace is crucial, it doesn’t mean avoiding difficult conversations. Uncomfortable discussions can arise due to differences in opinions, conflicts of interest, or addressing sensitive topics. Here are some tips to help navigate these conversations with empathy and respect:
- Choose the Right Time and Place: Ensure that the conversation takes place in a private and neutral setting, where both parties feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and emotions without fear of judgment or interruption. Timing is also crucial, as catching someone off-guard may escalate tensions. Find a suitable moment when everyone involved can be fully present.
- Practice Active Listening: Approach the conversation with an open mind and focus on understanding the other person’s perspective. Actively listen to their concerns, thoughts, and emotions without interrupting or formulating responses in your mind. Listen to understand, not just to respond. Paraphrase and reflect their points to demonstrate that you genuinely understand and value their viewpoint.
- Reflect on Your Own Biases: Recognize that everyone has biases, whether conscious or unconscious. Take the time for self-reflection and identify any biases you may hold. Be open to acknowledging and challenging them. This self-awareness will help you approach conversations with humility, curiosity, and a willingness to learn.
- Be Mindful of Non-Verbal Cues: Pay attention to your body language and non-verbal cues during the conversation. Maintain eye contact, use open and welcoming gestures, and avoid defensive postures. Non-verbal cues can have a significant impact on how your message is perceived, so strive to maintain a calm and approachable demeanor.
- Use “I” Statements: When expressing your own thoughts or concerns, utilize “I” statements instead of “you” statements. This approach focuses on personal feelings and experiences rather than placing blame or accusing the other person. For example, say, “I feel frustrated when this happens” instead of “You always make mistakes.”
- Seek Common Ground: Finding areas of agreement or shared goals can help bridge the gap between differing opinions. Look for common interests or objectives that can form the basis of a constructive conversation. Emphasize collaboration and finding solutions that benefit everyone involved, rather than focusing solely on individual positions.
- Take Breaks if Needed: In emotionally charged conversations, it’s essential to recognize when a break is necessary. If tensions rise or emotions become overwhelming, suggest taking a short pause to regroup and collect your thoughts. Stepping away briefly can help both parties regain composure and approach the conversation with a clearer mindset.
- Embrace Discomfort as a Catalyst for Growth: Recognize that uncomfortable conversations are an opportunity for personal and collective growth. Lean into the discomfort and be willing to challenge your own beliefs and assumptions. Growth often happens outside of our comfort zones, and uncomfortable conversations can be transformative if approached with an open mind and a commitment to positive change.
- Follow Up: After the conversation, try to follow up and ensure that any agreements or action items discussed are implemented. This demonstrates your commitment to finding resolutions and maintaining a healthy working relationship. Check in periodically to assess progress and address any lingering concerns or issues.
During National Civility Month, IntelliBridge has the chance to prioritize workplace communication that is both respectful and effective. By approaching uncomfortable conversations with empathy, respect, and a mindset focused on growth, we can establish work environments that not only celebrate diversity but also promote inclusivity and drive positive transformations.
This month provides us with an excellent opportunity to reinforce our dedication to civility and continue fostering workplaces where every individual feels valued, listened to, and empowered to thrive. It’s important to remember that fostering a culture of civility requires ongoing commitment and practice. However, the rewards of improved relationships, increased collaboration, and enhanced productivity make this effort truly worthwhile.
IntelliBridge is a premier partner to homeland security, federal law enforcement, defense, and civilian agency customers who helps solve complex technology, intelligence, and mission support challenges. Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, with locations and staff nationwide, IntelliBridge makes its customers successful by delivering best-in-class solutions through a combination of deep domain expertise, advanced technology, and passion for the mission. IntelliBridge is a portfolio company of Enlightenment Capital. To learn more or join the team, visit www.intellibridge.us.