If you don’t have the space for disagreement, you can’t really be inclusive

A blog by Sam Graham, Clean Sheet’s Chief Operating Officer

“Inclusion is for everyone, or it’s for no-one.”

I like this statement. It reminds me that true inclusion isn’t about prioritising one group over another or only giving some voices an airing. It reminds me that inclusion is about – and for – everyone; whether you’re from a racial minority (like myself) or from a majority group (whatever or whoever that might be).

But what about having the space to disagree? Is it possible to be inclusive and have the space to disagree with each other? Aren’t these at odds…? Well, not really when you think about it. Inclusion is about creating a space where all are welcome. It’s about breaking down barriers. It’s about giving different people a voice and creating spaces where people feel accepted and heard. There need to be different opinions and approaches in order to address inequality.

But inclusion doesn’t mean that we can’t disagree with one another and disagree well.

With respect.

With consideration for other people’s viewpoints.

With care and compassion for another human being whilst still holding a different view.

Without the space for people to express their thoughts, beliefs and values – things that they hold dear – how can there really be true inclusion? If there is no space for discussion and the ability to disagree or have a different viewpoint, we risk dictating a set of beliefs and standards that we demand everyone to live by.

Just pause and consider that a moment. Without the space for discussion – and the ability to have a different viewpoint – there can’t be true inclusion. We risk becoming dictators – demanding that everyone thinks the same way, accept the same standards and beliefs, regardless. In that reality, there is no space for my voice to be heard, for me to be made welcome. How is that inclusive?

We might not like someone disagreeing with us (we all like to be agreed with!) but whether we’re at work, home or in society, there has got to be the space for others to tell us that they don’t agree with us and for that to be ok. Without us then insisting and demanding that they agree with us. Or vice versa.

So where does that leave us? Having the space to discuss and disagree (well) is the vital but often ignored ingredient, in creating true inclusion. Let’s be intentional about creating this space so that we really can have inclusion for all.