How to be Inclusive Nonverbally

Rachel Beohm
6 min readSep 22, 2023

You can include and exclude people nonverbally — often inadvertently! Here are seven ways to avoid excluding others.

“Now that we’re back in the office part-time, I love seeing everyone interacting again,” a coaching client told me. “But a few people who were hired remotely during the pandemic still hang back. One newer employee said everyone knows each other already and she doesn’t feel included. I know the team isn’t trying to exclude her, but I can see how she might feel that way. What can we do?”

Inclusiveness rarely happens automatically. By definition, if some people are “included,” others are excluded. For example, your company or team culture automatically excludes people who don’t work at your company or on your team. And that’s fine. You want to create a shared identity. Culture is a good thing! But often, even the people you want to feel included, don’t.

Excluding happens easily. Including often takes intention.

I’m not referring to enacting policies that provide equal access for marginalized groups. That’s a huge, important topic, yet beyond my expertise. I’m talking about everyday nuts-and-bolts communication skills (or lack thereof) that can subtly — and often unintentionally — make people feel like they do or don’t belong. When you’re in a group setting, especially if you’re a leader or addressing the group as a whole, a few minor adjustments can make a big difference. Create a more receptive and accessible atmosphere with these simple communication tips:

Expand Your Gestures.

Make sure your gestures match the size of the group. When speaking to the group as a whole, gesture toward the people at the edges instead of those right in front of you. When you’re in a small group but want others to know they are welcome to join, gesture beyond the confines of your little knot of people.

Use Open Body Language.

Avoid barriers such as crossed arms or having a laptop screen (or lectern, for speakers!) between you and other members of the group. Keep your arms open and free to move, including on video. In person, shift your body so you can face different people over the course of your time together. As Joe Navarro says, you face things and people you feel…

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Rachel Beohm

Exploring relationship skills, communication (especially nonverbal), and how to live a full life. Promoter of kindness, gratitude, and joy.