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The 'You're So Strong' Complex

Cover photo by nappy from Pexels

As an honorary HR professional (ha!), I'm lucky to have spent the last 4+ years listening, learning and reading a lot about the HR profession. But then I fell in love with Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) - an area of business I feel more passionately for each day. In my research, I'm recognizing one of the key factors to true inclusivity is understanding the makeup of those who you are working to include. In the age of instant gratification and AI, there is unfortunately no quick "checkbox" for individual understanding. So here's a true human interaction I hope may help someone who needs to hear it...

My friends and I had a discussion around "how many of your 'personality traits' are really just defense and coping mechanisms from years of attacks on who you really are?". The most common denominator was STRONG.

There's absolutely no denying it: black women (and men) are strong. Our DNA is strong. But yet, that same strength is far too many times mis-categorized by others (often in the workplace) as harsh, angry, and my very least favorite of them all... mean. Oh how "mean" grinds my gears!

"It's pretty confusing when one day you're praised for your strength and the next you're supposed to tone it down."

Taking a moment to understand that many times strength stems from places of hardship and pain goes a very long way when being mindful of adjectives used during feedback or general interaction with those different from you in the workplace.

Although this article solves absolutely nothing my hope is maybe it gives you something to think about on a Monday afternoon. Black, white, brown or other - inclusion requires understanding. Understanding requires an open mind. "Strong" is just an example of all there is to learn.

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