One of the fundamentals for communications of any kind—whether you’re writing, designing or presenting—is to know your audience.
At this point it sounds like a cliché: decades-old wisdom that should be second nature for anyone who gets paid to communicate. But as society progresses, so does the depth of our audience understanding.
Groups of people who may have been painted with the same brush are now being recognized for the diverse and unique individuals they are.
But moving forward brings new challenges. People now face anxiety over whether they are using the appropriate terms, acronyms, and pronouns. They question whether their attempts to be inclusive may end up being offensive.
So how can we be sure we’re doing right by our audiences?
The secret to being an inclusive communicator is to do your homework—and triple check it.
Accepted standards for inclusive communications are easily found online. Just be sure that that source is an expert or organization that represents the people you’re talking to.
Sometimes what you’ll find may challenge your assumptions.
For example, “hearing-impaired” may sound politically correct, but some quick research would show that the term is not accepted within the Deaf community.
Of course, Google can only take you so far. Fully understanding the intricacies of your audience might mean consulting an expert—or just talking to someone in the community.
Recently at Calder Bateman, staff engaged in sensitivity training with the Pride Centre of Edmonton. They got us thinking even deeper about communicating with LGBTQ2 communities.
For example, Two-Spirit is an identity solely for Indigenous people. When addressing a non-Indigenous group, removing the “2” from the acronym may actually be more appropriate.
Another piece of advice we received in our training: if you’re unsure of which pronoun to use for a transgender person, just ask that individual their preferred pronoun. Simply connecting with someone from the community you’re communicating with can make all the difference.
When it comes down to it, inclusivity in communications is about demonstrating kindness and respect for fellow human beings. When you put in the time and effort, it will be clear to your audience that you truly know them.
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