I know that we English tend to obsess about the weather, but please indulge me for a moment.
The terrible summer we’ve had in the UK got me thinking this week about rain – and about acid rain, in particular.
Acid rain is a term coined in 1872 by Robert Angus Smith but came into popular use in the 1980’s as the broader population began to understand the damage it can do and the gradual impact it has. The harm it causes is incremental and cumulative. Take a look around any of the world’s cities and you will see its insidious, silent and on-going effects on the corroded façades of buildings, or the worn faces of statues. No one notices it. No one thinks about it as it falls imperceptibly, leaving devastating and irreparable damage in its wake.
I think that acid rain is damage by stealth. And that links, in my mind, to many of the topics I’ve written about here.
Damage by stealth can be the culmination of the little things we do, at home, in our social lives, or at work, to exclude others, stand in their way or make it hard for them to participate. It’s about chipping away at someone’s confidence so they lose motivation, direction or a sense of belonging. I’ve talked to many, many ex-employees of companies, who talk about a “death by a thousand cuts” feeling as a result of being excluded by a boss or colleagues.
It is part of human nature to be divisive. We all have our “in” groups and our “out” groups. Cast an eye around any playground, canteen, office, meeting room and you will see human segmentation in action – those who are “in” and those who are not. There are people, family and friends that we feel subconsciously drawn to and want to include. And those we don’t.
But part of being inclusive is being aware of this; taking conscious decisions about expanding our social and professional circles to include people from our “out” groups. And being aware of the damage we can cause to others and to ourselves through exclusion.
Studies have shown that more inclusive people are generally more successful, with more satisfying careers and stronger relationships. This stems from a capacity to recognize and control bias, and take the conscious decision to open up to new ideas and points of view. Being inclusive means looking for the bigger picture, being aware of our own strengths and weaknesses, and working more efficiently together.