What to Say? Starting D&I Conversations at Work.

August 12, 2020
Diversity and Inclusion
Read time: 2 mins

Chances are you’ve been there. You found yourself in a situation where you wanted to talk with a coworker about something from their background that’s different than yours, but you weren’t sure what to say.

Maybe a teammate was wearing a cool turban that caught your eye, or you heard Jessica just married Jen and you wanted to congratulate her, but didn’t, because you weren’t sure about the “right thing” to say.

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) conversations on the job are so important. They make for a culture that embraces people from all races, ages, disabilities, gender identities, sexual orientations and ethnicities in the workplace.

How do you get a conversation going at work that involves D&I skills? Here are a few tips that can open the door to stronger working relationships and an inclusive culture.


  • Don’t assume how someone identifies themself. Is he Asian or a Pacific Islander? Does she prefer hard of hearing or deaf? Not sure what to do?
  • Just ask. It’s tough to get upset at a well-intentioned question. It helps by starting out with something like “I hope I’m not intruding, but I heard you talking about your daughter’s Quinceañera, it sounds like a fun tradition, can you tell me about it?”
  • Don’t label. Instead of saying Janice is an epileptic, say Janice has a seizure disorder. Mention that Tommy has a learning disability, not Tommy is learning disabled. It’s called people-first language and it focuses on the individual, not the issue he or she may have.

Want more tips on how to start worthwhile D&I conversations at work? Sign up for MRA’s webinar: Diversity & Inclusion Conversations at Work: Step Out or Lean In? It’s geared toward leaders, HR professionals, and those with influence in their workgroup who are looking to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

This webinar will focus on:

  • Discussing critical roles diversity and inclusion play in a positive work culture
  • Introducing a conversation framework for managing employees and engaging with peers with differing perspectives
  • Promoting trust and empathy within teams
  • Reviewing what you should and should not say, including language for interrupting inappropriate conversations on the job

It’s safe to say we all want a welcoming, comfortable and inclusive work environment because that type of culture will bring about greater engagement, empathy and stronger teams. Learning the skillsets to have meaningful D&I conversations at work is a great place to start.