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What is Inclusive Communication?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’re not quite sure how to talk to someone who is a little different from you? Are you worried about what terminology to use when speaking to someone with a disability or what pronouns to use when conversing with a member of the LGBTQI+ community?

It is perfectly natural to feel a little anxious about what to say or how to address people. Using Inclusive Communication may help!

Inclusive Communication is about the verbal and non-verbal ways we can communicate to ensure we are being inclusive to everybody regardless of characteristics such as age, race, religion, sexual preference or disability.

To speak inclusively is to embrace diversity, as a student, staff member, OR friend of UNE we invite you to Be A Better Human.  This student-driven campaign originates from Flinders University Student Association and is something we hold firm in our culture now at UNE – it’s all about empathy, consent, and respect.

The Australian Disability Clearing House put it perfectly when they said “non-verbal communication is often just as important to the meaning as what is being said.”

Whether it be at a workplace, at college, or simply in your day to day activities, it is almost certain that you will be communicating with someone different to you in one way or another. Being aware of and using inclusive language can help ensure you are embracing diversity and able to confidently engage in conversation with anyone regardless of any characteristic differences.

Ever-increasing diversity in society has seen a greater need for inclusive communication to become part of our everyday communication skills. You may have noticed ‘server’ is now often used in place of waiter or waitress, and ‘parent’ or ‘guardian’ is now preferred over mother or father.

With so many ‘rules’ surrounding inclusive information it is easy to get overwhelmed and even confused. Here are 10 basic tips you can use to try and be more inclusive in your communication methods;

  1. Approach the person or persons in your usual manner. You should never assume someone needs special attention
  2. Speak in your normal voice but be sure to speak slowly and clearly
  3. Be aware of the context in which you are speaking. Language appropriate to your circle of friends may not be inclusive in a workplace environment
  4. Be aware of any cultural barriers that may affect how another may interpret what you are communicating (for example some cultures see eye contact or hand gestures as asserting dominance whilst others see a lack of eye contact as rude or arrogant)
  5. Be patient with yourself and others
  6. Simply ask the person if they understand what you are trying to communicate
  7. If you do not understand something someone is saying, ask them to repeat themselves or explain further. Never pretend you understand if you do not.
  8. When addressing a group of people, refrain from using gender-specific words especially when in the presence of gender-nonconforming individuals
  9. Be aware of your facial expressions and body language
  10. Educate yourself. If you are put in a position where you know you will be communicating with a person or a group of people with different characteristics to yourself, do some research on how to communicate inclusively with them prior to meeting with them

If you have experienced any form of discrimination or discomfort during your studies at UNE, you can contact our team, we offer confidential services and can point you in the right direction for help. If you would like to confidentially and anonymously report something you can do this online here.

Always know that you’re never alone at UNE, there are many support services available to you.

Our experienced team at Advocacy and Welfare have confidential support for students in need and can point you in the right direction of whom you should be talking with for the correct support

Student Success also has confidential counselling for students.