Loneliness, belonging and inclusion

Loneliness, belonging and inclusion

perosn on their own gazing out across water

14 September 2023

Siobhan Lynam, our Volunteer Deputy Director for  Diversity and Inclusion, comments on a current diversity and inclusion issue. Add your own comment to this on LinkedIn.

Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 recently had a week of discussion related to loneliness. The programmes reflected on the impact of loneliness on health and wellbeing and discussed what individuals and society can do to tackle loneliness.

The programmes emphasised how women and young people are disproportionately affected by loneliness. But while belonging was discussed as an important protector against loneliness, there was little reflection on individual and societal responsibility to safeguard belonging.

Would there be an epidemic of loneliness if we all took responsibility to preserve belonging in our personal and work environments? This is especially important for minoritised groups who are unequally affected by a lack of belonging.

In our daily interactions, it is easy to exclude others who are different to us. Meeting colleagues in the pub may be a relaxing way of getting to know them and build relationships and networks. However, activities that centre around alcohol automatically exclude those who do not drink. Equally, a loud and busy meeting area can be very stressful for people who are hypersensitive to over-stimulating environments.

Therefore, these environments eliminate a lot of people from important opportunities to build connections and friendships. As individuals and communities, it is important to consider if our daily decisions are building a sense of belonging for all, not just the groups that already have a strong presence and a durable sense of belonging.

Have you come across other examples that do not promote belonging in marginalised individuals?

What would you suggest to colleagues whose behaviour is exclusionary?

As coaches, mentors and supervisors, how can we ensure that our practice promotes inclusion and protects against the loneliness and isolation that stems from a lack of belonging?

Image by Jarle Johansen on Unsplash