Why do people use microaggressions? Well, they’re often unintentional, and perhaps when I was listing some microaggressions, you were guilty of using them yourself. And so that’s one of the things about them is often people don’t mean to put people down or make them feel inferior. They’re based on unconscious bias. And again, I gave a webinar on unconscious bias. And if you’d like to see it, then you can watch the video of it. But unconscious bias is the beliefs that
we have about people that we’re really not even aware of and these beliefs become apparent when something happens. For example, I gave a racial microaggression as a white woman clutching her purse when a black or Latino man passes
by and this woman might think that she is not biased whatsoever, as most of us think we are not. But then that little action reveals that bias. And so we all are biased and lots of us know what our biases are, but we all have unconscious bias
to beliefs that lie under the system that come out when a situation arises. Also, people make assumptions about other people because they don’t know them very well. And also stereotypes. And again, these things are a result of when we
do not interact with a lot of people who are not like us and we just don’t know people. And we base our beliefs on what people tell us, what we see on television and the movies and social media and all of those types of things. But sometimes microaggressions are done intentionally to put people in their place. We just celebrated Labor Day and you might be aware of a little fashion rule, which is that you’re not supposed to wear white after Labor Day. Oh, where did that little rule come from? Well, according to the director of the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and I definitely need to go see that place, this director said that wealthy women created this little rule to find out who was really wealthy and who wasn’t. So the old money elites came up with this little rule among themselves and spread the news to other, old-money friends, don’t wear white after Labor Day. And then when people would show up wearing white, it was obvious they were not part of the group. And so that was a long time ago before people could post such messages on social media and such. So it was word of mouth, but it was a very intentional thing to know who’s who and most importantly, who’s in and who’s out. So sometimes it’s intentional to let people know where their place is and when they’re stepping out of it.
There are various things that people can do about microaggressions, and it depends upon if you are on the receiving
end of them or if you’re in a position where you should be doing something about microaggressions. So the first thing
that people can do is increase awareness. Now, I am a trainer, and so of course I promote training. Not as the answer to everything, but just letting people know through a concerted effort about microaggressions. And we all need this training, including myself. Now, here’s an example. I live in Bakersfield, California. It is in the Central Valley and I used to work with a Hispanic male from a town called Delanoe, and Delanoe is little north of Bakersfield, and it is mostly a Hispanic town. And there are a lot of people who work out in the fields in agriculture who live in that town. Now, at work, we needed a Spanish interpreter. And so I turned to my Hispanic coworker who I knew was from Delanoe and asked him if he spoke Spanish. He was offended by that, and he said, “You think because I’m Hispanic and I’m from Delanoe that I speak Spanish?” Well, yes, that is exactly what I thought. While doing research for today’s presentation, I saw this example repeatedly. That asking somebody who is Hispanic if they speak Spanish is a microaggression. And honestly, I still don’t know why it’s offensive, but it doesn’t matter if I know why it’s offensive or not. I won’t do it again. Somebody let me know and I increased my awareness that it is offensive for whatever reason I will not understand, because that is not my world. But that’s OK. Now that I know I won’t repeat the offense. One of the things that we need to do is when we become aware that people are committing microaggressions against each other and they have been made aware that they shouldn’t do that and they continue to do it anyway, we need to hold them accountable for it just like anything else. Now, we’ll talk a little bit about harassment a little bit later on. But one of the things that is perfectly fine to do is to have policies saying that people need to not annoy their coworkers. And if people repeatedly make microaggressions when they have been asked not to, then it is perfectly fine to hold them accountable through disciplinary action or what have you. Now, if somebody said something to you that you perceived as a slight, you’ve got some options. You might let it go like I did when the client told me, “I told people how sensitive you are,” I just let that go. There is no point in having training at that point with her. And I know she did not mean to hurt my feelings, I know she was meaning to protect me. So I don’t need to do anything with that. But one of the things you can do is respond immediately. Now, if you’re going to respond immediately because the moment is right, then it’s important to address the microaggression, not the microaggressor. For example, calling someone racist or homophobic will only make the situation worse. And so make it clear you have an issue with what the person said or did, not with the person themselves. And that’s one of the things that people in this country really need to learn how to do, is to address situations without calling names, because that’s one of the things that I have noticed that people are very quick to do. If they disagree with somebody about something, it reverts to name-calling very quickly. And all that does is fuel the fire. So what we really need to do is to address the situation, the words, the behavior, and not call the person who’s engaging in them, names. You might use humor, as my friend suggested that I do. For example, if a coworker talks over you in a meeting instead of saying, “don’t interrupt!” You can be a bit light hearted and say something like, “I totally get that you’re excited to share your idea. I’d like to finish sharing mine first.” Now, be careful not to be condescending or sarcastic when you’re joking. And so for some of us, maybe we’re not going to joke at all because we can’t not sound sarcastic when we do it. Maybe you’re going to respond later. And that’s usually the best thing to do for a lot of people, is that after you walk away and you’ve thought about it for a while, maybe to send an email, maybe to schedule a meeting with that person to let that person know how the words or the actions affected you. So having some time responding later, a lot of times is in our best interest because we get to choose the words and the tone and all of that very carefully. And that’s what we always need to do in communication. And this is the sermon that I always give, is that when we communicate, it’s to give a desired response from our audience. Every time we send a message, we want a specific response back. And if we’re very careful about the words, we choose our tone of voice, our facial expression, when and where we deliver the message, then we’re more likely going to get the response back that we want. If we just shoot from the hip, chances are we’re going to blow it. So responding later is usually the better thing to do. Now, any time we are responding, one of the things that we need to do is have empathy for the person that slighted us. And that sounds counterintuitive. No, I need to have empathy for myself. Well, the thing is, again, most people are unintentional with their microaggressions. And so consider the person’s background, age, culture, education level, all of those things consider them and have empathy for the fact that they just don’t know that they are being offensive to you. Now, this doesn’t excuse their behavior, but it does make it easier for you to understand them. And when we understand people, the more understanding we can be. Now, when somebody tells you that you have committed a microaggression don’t get defensive. Listen to the person’s concerns. Do your best to understand the impact that what you said or did had on them. Don’t say, “I was just joking,” because that then thinks that their sensitivity is frivolous. Acknowledge that their feelings are valid. Now, don’t say,” I know exactly how you feel,” because we don’t. We don’t know how other people feel. But do emphasize it was not your intent to be hurtful and that you do now understand how your remarks created a negative impact. Apologize. Now, I like, “I’m sorry as opposed to, “I apologize.” To me, it’s more genuine, but that’s just my preference. But please don’t say, “I’m sorry that you’re so sensitive,” when somebody brings your behavior to your attention. That’s exactly the response that I got once. I had a male supervisor once upon a time who liked to tease me. And when I brought it to his attention, that something he said was hurtful, He said, “I’m sorry, you are so sensitive.” Yeah, that just made it worse. And try to let it go and move on. These things happen. It’s important to remember we’re human. We make mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up too much if you said something that hurt someone else’s feelings. So that’s the information that I have for you. Do you have some questions for me?