Caroline Anukem portrait

Written by Caroline Anukem

Caroline Anukem is Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Lead at Beaconsfield High School in the UK. She is a driving force, a change-maker, and a relentless advocate for equity.

Forget Acts of Service: The Love Languages Revolutionising Inclusion

Tired of the same old diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives that fall flat? It is time to do away with the generic and delve into a framework that speaks to the heart of belonging: Inclusion Love Languages.

Imagine this: You walk into a conference feeling a pit in your stomach. The name tags are impersonal, the panels lack diverse voices, and you struggle to find someone who “gets” your background. This is the opposite of inclusion. Now, picture a different scenario. You are greeted warmly with your preferred pronoun, the agenda reflects a range of perspectives, and breakout sessions offer opportunities for collaboration across differences. This – this – is inclusion in action.

Beyond Tolerance: A Celebration of YOU

Inclusion should not be about simply tolerating differences. It is about actively celebrating them.  The “Love Languages” model, popularised by Gary Chapman, categorises how individuals receive and express love.   I propose adapting this framework to inclusion, recognising that everyone has preferred ways of feeling valued and respected in a space.

What are YOUR Inclusion Love Languages?

Just like some crave words of affirmation from a partner, others might feel most included through mentorship opportunities or invitations to social gatherings.  Think about your own preferences. Do you thrive in environments with clear expectations and open communication (Acts of Service)? Or do you feel most valued when your unique perspective is acknowledged and celebrated (Words of Affirmation)?

Understanding your own inclusion love language is just the first step. Now consider how you can identify and address the preferences of others.  Perhaps a colleague or a fellow student feels most included through casual check-ins (Quality Time), while another appreciates being included in focus groups (Gifts – offering opportunities for contribution).

From Feel-Good to Functioning: The Power of Inclusion

True inclusion is not just about creating a warm and fuzzy atmosphere. It creates a sense of psychological safety, where individuals feel comfortable taking risks, sharing ideas freely, and being their authentic selves. This, in turn, unlocks a treasure trove of benefits:

  • Innovation Unleashed: Diverse perspectives combined with psychological safety create a breeding ground for ground-breaking ideas.
  • Engagement on Fire: Feeling valued motivates people to bring their best selves to work, leading to increased productivity and engagement.
  • Collaboration Takes Flight: A sense of belonging improves teamwork and inevitably reduces conflict, thus creating a more positive and collaborative environment.

Speaking Your Inclusion Love Language: Building a Thriving environment 

By understanding the “inclusion love languages,” we can move beyond a one-size-fits-all approach.  This reframing equips us with practical tools to cultivate a culture of belonging, the foundation for a truly thriving and equitable working or learning environment.