Is your shop OPEN for all business or are subconscious biases slamming your door? Here’s a motto to not only hang on your wall, but to live life from: If you aren’t being inclusive, you’re not open to receive. On a subconscious and energetic level, having an attitude of exclusivity shuts your heart (and your shop’s door), ultimately preventing receiving.
For decades there’s a globally-wide, ever-evolving conversation about what it means to be inclusive versus exclusive. Inclusivity shows up in political policy, becoming the guiding principles about gender, sexuality, race, religion, country of origin etc. Socially, we’ve come a long way toward at least trying to have an inclusive attitude and tolerance toward others. Businesses have worked hard to create multiplicity within their workplace. Among other things, this has brought greater customer satisfaction, an enhanced ability to reach goals and ultimately a stronger bottom line.
Safe to say that anyone reading this magazine probably agrees that diversity is a good thing. We all benefit from the unique characteristics everyone brings to the table. A lofty goal we all should be committed to, both in business and in our personal lives, is building a culture of global citizens, connectedness and understanding. Inclusivity is about having a mindset that welcomes everyone; an attitude of caring about others’ well-being; loving our country yet discouraging nationalism; including others as well as finding your own niche.
However, while many businesses have become better about creating diversity, many have not yet figured out how to make their work environment completely inclusive — that is, creating an atmosphere in which all people, employees as well as customers, feel valued, respected and catered to.
Granted, no small shop can satisfy all demographics, nor should it try to, but does yours have an attitude of exclusivity in some way? Are you subconsciously excluding some without even knowing it? Is your nose turned up snobbishly toward certain customers, hoping they would just stop coming in? If you’re honest with yourself and answered yes to either, then you are not open to receive.
We all want to belong, yet exclusivity is an innate part of human nature. Asking to embrace those out of our cultural comfort zone can be quite a challenge. At first glance, you may not think you have a judgmental bone in your body, proud at how accepting you are. But are you really? Do you include everyone in your marketing plan or just your own demographic? Do you make a concerted effort to cater to those not the “type” to actually walk into a shop like yours? How inclusive are your hiring practices? Is every walk of life presented in your merchandise?
Here are five suggestions to incite awareness that will generate a more inclusive attitude in your shop and will enhance your open to receive-ness:
1. Notice Subtle Biases
It might be hard to admit, but we all have subconscious mindsets, stereotypes about people we label as “different” from us. It shows up in subtle forms of discrimination or higher levels of scrutiny with certain people. When someone who doesn’t fit your typical customer description comes in, you may unconsciously not give them the same attention, time or caring service. You may think they don’t notice, but energetically they feel the distancing judgments. Notice attitudes of superiority toward anyone and everyone, even those working for you. Remember: The truth is, we are all the same.
2. Be Authentic
We all wear different masks, the behavior we put on in the world, convinced it will help us feel included and accepted. Being a shop owner, you have probably perfected various “Shop Owner Acts”: The always professional, super polite, nice to everyone, never letting on how low sales numbers are, overly excited to sell things you may not even like person.
However, by being an example of realness, you provide a place for others to be real as well. Without being a Debbie Downer, be open with those customers you sense it’s okay to be vulnerable with. Share your struggles being an indie shop, not to gain “sympathy purchases,” but to be authentic. Be more exposed to employees – their willingness to support just might surprise you. Think about what authenticity means to you, and the fears you have about putting away that mask.
3. People Gravitate Toward People Like Them
We naturally have an inclination to identify with and relate to people we feel similar to. Employers often hire and promote those who share their own attitudes, behaviors and traits. This perpetuates a similarity bias and can limit the customer base they’ll be able to sell to. Are you building relationships with those who are different from you? Are you seeking out and encouraging differences in those you hire? Celebrate uniqueness – appreciating diversity helps your business thrive.
4. Give Space for Open Dialogue
To reduce exclusivity, shop owners need to encourage discussion about vital issues and a democratically run working environment. Ask important questions such as “What’s it like being the only male employee?” or “What do you experience when someone who clearly can’t afford to buy something wanders around the shop?” or “How can we leverage your unique perspective and become more inclusive?”
Remember: Your shop owner role is not dictator, but rather compassionate leader. The key is asking the right questions, being present and listening empathetically to the responses. Their input and personal stories are invaluable.
5. Take Risks
Step out of that comfortable box and do things that encourage inclusivity. Perhaps bring in merchandise you previously wouldn’t have considered. Hire someone who doesn’t fit your standard employee mold. Reach out to a different demographic. Remember: You can be distinctive but not have an attitude of exclusivity.
Have inclusivity a foundational business commitment, a collective, guiding value to cultivate in your shop and in your life. This will allow for a true sense of belonging, and ultimately will become a construct to help produce a larger, interconnected community on this beautifully diverse planet.