April 27, 2023

Radical acceptance to cultivate belonging.

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Belonging is one of those terms that can be defined in multiple ways. From an organizational culture perspective, belonging is a sense of acceptance of who you truly are in the workplace. I was initially introduced to the concept of “radical acceptance” by author Barry Prizant and his book Uniquely Human. I found this concept fascinating! Radical acceptance centers around the idea that we can connect with individuals without putting so much emphasis on commonalities or differences.

When we exercise radical acceptance, we are not trying to find out what we have in common with a person to guide a 5-minute small talk conversation. Instead, we recognize the identity of the other person, and we find ways to have a meaningful exchange. Radical acceptance is about contributing and creating a welcoming environment by removing judgment from our daily interactions.

When we think about organizational culture and ways to foster inclusion and belonging, the idea of radical acceptance is intriguing. Career paths, promotions, professional development, and other initiatives are usually tied to a traditional way of thinking. But what if we were open to letting each individual design their unique experience? We would go from trying to fit people into existing boxes to creating new opportunities and possibilities that allow individuals to express who they are. We would go from coaching employees into their next job to supporting their career and expression in a way that also supports the mission of the organization. It would be kind of liberating for all, but mostly for underrepresented employees who are usually working hard on diluting their identity to fit in.

Learning about radical acceptance has made me reflect on the importance of investing time to discover the strengths of all individuals we work with instead of focusing on what could be perceived as a deficit.