The Holy Trinity Exercise: A Tool for Creating Inclusive Cultures

By Bella Pratt, Blue Sky Graduate Assistant, MBA Candidate

“And so it shall be or something better.” These were the mantra-like words uttered by Connie K. Lim and Krista Suh on the final chilly evening of the 2019 Net Impact conference. Some of our Boise State Net Impact club, full of current MBA students, were in the audience, listening intently as the three-day Detroit conference came to a close.

Perhaps two of the most influential women during the 2017 Women’s March, Lim, also known as the singer-songwriter, MILCK, and Suh, creator of the Pussyhat Project, delivered their keynote on collaborating for the march.

During the session, they showcased the creative processes that they employed to better shine a spotlight on the protest through music and craft. In order to make an impact, they emphasized the importance of empowerment, relationships, and safe spaces. Part of this involved explaining how to be a “sanctuary for people” (Suh, 2019) and ideas and how you can be someone that helps empower and lift up, especially when it comes to other women (Lim & Suh, 2019).

One of the tools the two speakers suggested to strengthen relationships and to increase empowerment was called the Holy Trinity exercise. In line with the theme of our 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Summit, it can also create a more inclusive culture within the workplace. Originally created for women by Regena Thomashauer, its setup is simple: each member gives three “I” statements. After each person shares, the whole group follows their words with a phrase said in unison (Lim & Suh, 2019).

The first statement focuses on a sometimes difficult topic for marginalized people to talk about: themselves–especially when bragging. Next, it goes over other self-focused topics that might be difficult for many marginalized people to bring up of their own accord: what they are grateful for and what they desire. These three subjects come together in a straightforward manner to create the exercise:

 

  • “I brag…”
  • “I am grateful for…”
  • “I desire…”

 

After one member fills in these three phrases aloud, the whole group says in unison: “And so it shall be or something better.” Then, it repeats with another person, and so on and so forth until it’s gone full circle (Lim & Suh, 2019).

Micaela Smith, a Boise State MBA student who attended the Net Impact Conference, said that giving that final expression together “is surprisingly uplifting and affirming” and that the overall exercise “created a really positive and empowering space…It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know people on a deeper level while framing it very positively.”

Our group first practiced the activity during the keynote session. It was surprisingly difficult to do it at first, even given its self-explanatory structure. Bragging was something that I especially had trouble with, because, like many women and minorities, it’s not in my nature to focus heavily on my accomplishments. I realized how I tend to shy away from talking about what I’m proud of, and I instead focus on all of the things I need to get done or could improve upon. Additionally, it was also difficult for me to put what I desire into words because I tend to focus on how to do better, not on my own personal wants, big or small. 

However, because it was challenging for me–and for others, as well–to put those unconventional thoughts into words, I found that it was a great way to check-in with our club and connect better, while simultaneously raising our spirits due to the exercise’s ingrained positivity. Kelsey Hausman, another Boise State MBA student at the conference, agreed about the activity’s uplifting spirit: The exercise “allows me to be proud of my accomplishments, express gratitude, and remind myself of my goals. As a daily practice, it rejuvenates self-love and positivity.” 

The activity was so beneficial for our Boise State crew that we repeated it two other times over the next 24 hours, at a pizza place later that evening and then the next night, during our late layover in Salt Lake City. Since then, we have practiced the activity over a group message and checked in using the activity over Ethiopian food a few weeks later. 

Gallup’s article, “3 Requirements for a Diverse and Inclusive Culture” by Ella Washington and Camille Patrick (2018), demonstrates how the Holy Trinity exercise can support an inclusive culture. According to the article, there are three essential parts to creating this kind of culture: respect, strengths, and an open environment. Here are those three necessities, broken down a bit further:

  1. The company culture must be based on respect.
  2. The business focuses on the employees’ strengths through strengths coaching.
  3. There is a safe and trusting environment where employees are able to be open. Part of this feeling of safety comes from workers knowing that their company’s leaders will alleviate discrimination concerns in the right way (Washington & Patrick, 2018).

While this article is focused more on the business world, the basic tenets are similar for most atmospheres. These requirements demonstrate how the Holy Trinity exercise can strengthen the inclusive culture of workplaces (and classrooms) all over: Asking for workers to brag about something can help the company focus on employees’ strengths, while requesting they answer the three statements–and having supervisors and coworkers care about the answers–shows a level of respect for the employee, their opinion, and their wellbeing. Finally, doing the activity can also contribute to a safer and more trusting environment. 

Not only does the Holy Trinity exercise strengthen relationships and empower those that do it, but it also helps to create a more inclusive culture in whatever environment it’s practiced in. 

This tool can be used when the day is just getting started or as a wrap-up. It can also be utilized as a check-in before starting a meeting.

To effectively conduct an inclusive meeting, Kathryn Heath and Brenda F. Wensil (2019), in the article “To Build an Inclusive Culture, Start with Inclusive Meetings”, recommend focusing on setting expectations and customs beforehand. This makes sure that everyone feels safe in the meetings and lets everyone know that their voices will be heard (Heath & Wensil, 2019). One way to do that is to begin with a tool that helps set up that environment–something like the Holy Trinity exercise. Checking-in through this activity can then put your workplace one step closer to creating an inclusive culture.

As Kim and Suh (2019) would say in response to that, “And so it shall be or something better.”

 

References

Heath, K., & Wensil, B. F. (2019). To build an inclusive culture, start with inclusive meetings. Hbr.org. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2019/09/to-build-an-inclusive-culture-start-with-inclusive-meetings

Lim, C.K., & Suh, K. (2019, October). Saturday evening keynote. Widening the lens: 2019 net impact conference. Talk presented at TCF Center, Detroit, Michigan.

Washington, E., & Patrick, C. (2018). 3 requirements for a diverse and inclusive culture. Gallup.com. Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/242138/requirements-diverse-inclusive-culture.aspx