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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Jan. 26, 2021

Video: "Lonely Only" - How to have courageous conversations

By Shana Brouder, MyCG Staff

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion has developed new resources to support the continued improvement of inclusivity in our service. The new “The Lonely Only” video comes complete with a voyage plan that offers guided reflection questions. The goal is to help members of the workforce have more courageous conversations in the future.

This video is a part of the WATCH (Welcoming Actions to Create Healing), found under the resources tab on the CG-127 SharePoint site. 

In the video, Chief Warrant Officer Jadell Brown and Rear Adm. Joanna Nunan engage in a candid conversation about Brown’s experiences, while modeling inclusive leadership as they discuss the challenges Brown has confronted during his Coast Guard career. 

The conversation offers a glimpse into the power that two-way mentorship has on both the mentor and the mentee. “I realized I was getting way more out of this relationship,” said Nunan, Assistant Commandant for Human Resources. 

“From my view, the unwritten rule of not talking about these hot button issues—race, sexuality, religion—is out the window. As formal and informal leaders we should be talking about these things with our teams in order to create working environments where everyone feels physically and psychologically safe,” Nunan said. “When I think about diversity, inclusion and equity, the thing that I think we need to work on the most is this idea of inclusion.”

Brown, the Assistant Ethnic Policy Advisor, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, shares recommendations for how to engage after being isolated, “There’s a responsibility on both parties to speak up,” said Brown. “The ‘lonely only’ must tell those around them how they are feeling, and the others in their circle need to recognize situations where others may not feel as comfortable as them.” 

Brown emphasized the value of reflection despite any embarrassment or awkwardness felt when recounting hurt from the past, “These conversations are not about guilt,” said Brown. “They’re about creating ‘ah ha’ and ‘uh-oh,’ moments where the other person goes, ‘You know, I never looked at it that way before.’”

“The hope is that those who are not impacted by these issues can see that the people around them might be,” said Brown, “and that those other ‘lonely onlys’ feel seen. That they know it’s not just them—they’re not crazy.”

The video and supporting resources encourage a mindset of growth, not guilt, encouraging those who want to embark on these conversations. This simple shift in mindset is one of the necessary elements in creating a psychologically safe environment. 

“I want the Coast Guard to be a safe place where everyone can bring their whole self to work,” said Nunan. The “watch” also has meaning in the sense of: standing watch, which is to be vigilant and safeguard the health and welfare of others; to watch and learn (from the video); and to watch and become stronger together.

To seek, know, understand, and respect perspectives of your fellow shipmates is how we can maintain a ready, effective, and efficient Coast Guard. Ms. Katheryn King, a career diversity and inclusion practitioner who produced the WATCH video for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion recommends, “If you don’t intentionally include, you unintentionally exclude.”

The voyage plan that comes along with “The Lonely Only” is meant to facilitate conversation. Questions that push for further self-reflection, such as “Can we achieve the desired performance and change [inclusion and diversity] if we continue to exclude? What should we start or stop doing?”

The feeling of being the “lonely only” goes so much further than race,” said Brown, about the work that his office champions, “Because no matter how you’re the ‘only’ on the team, it is important not to be lonely.” 

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion wants to hear from you and is ready to listen to your story. If you are interested in sharing your story or participating in this new diversity inclusion effort in any way, please reach out to Ms. Katheryn King at HQS-SMB-CG127-THEWATCHLOG@USCG.MIL