We hear a lot about Allyship and being an ally, but what does it really mean? For me, this is more than just words or a label. Being a true ally comes with real action, empathy, sponsorship and genuinely making an impact to those around you. Being an ally is finding opportunities and avenues to truly advance towards a culture of belonging, helping those around us feel included and making intentional efforts to amplify the voices of underrepresented individuals or groups.
Imagine just one time in your life where you felt like you didn’t really belong. I’m almost certain that we have all had at least one experience. It may have been in a social group, at school, at an event, or even in the workplace. Perhaps it was just one moment or experience, or it could have been over a longer period. If you can remember those feelings, and how it impacted your contributions, how you spoke up, how you felt about being part of that group, and perhaps your decision to stay or remain in that situation. Now imagine if there was one other person in that situation who really tried to help you belong. Perhaps they made extra efforts to welcome and include you, or they made room to hear your thoughts or opinions, or they took time to get to know you. This is where Allyship shows its real power.
An ally is someone is who empathetic to others. Allies observe, and take intentional steps to include everyone, empower them to share their voices and they take the time to understand any barriers that may be getting in the way of true belonging.
It is critical to always strive to advance our understanding and relationships with those around us. We should seek to learn and understand, and endeavour to show compassion and understanding, walk in other’s shoes, and make efforts be flexible to meet other’s needs. Building trust is critical.
We need to recognise our own unconscious biases. So, instead of making assumptions, it is the intentional efforts we make to get to know people, and understand and acknowledge what makes them unique that creates an impact. We may ourselves face daily challenges, but as an ally, we should seek to understand the challenges of those around us, what perceptions or barriers others face, and how can we support and help overcome these.
Allyship is a continuous learning curve. We must continually seek to understand, learn from others, be authentic and open to discovering how we can be more understanding and supportive. Everyone’s experiences are different and unique, and appreciating these differences will enable stronger advocacy.
The power of belonging can ignite a team together, and it is sometimes just a few simple steps that creates this spark. Compassion and understanding are core to recognising every person for who they are, what they can offer and what makes them unique. When everyone around the table can feel comfortable to be themselves (their true self), this is where a real change for the better begins. Think about it, when you don’t need to pretend, be someone you’re not, you are more likely to be more engaged, motivated, passionate, and committed. You will be the best version of yourself because you are being true to who you are!
Now imagine the possibilities if everyone made the effort to be a better ally; to amplify, advocate and support those around us, enabling those feelings of true psychological safety, and intentionally bringing everyone into the conversation.
Real Allyship is more than just a label; it has to be visible and real actions that make an impact to ignite true belonging for all.
Header image credit: LinkedIn