What should you do once a coworker calls you out for using a microaggression when you wish to be an ally to those who belong to oppressed groups? Make sure the other person initially feels heard. Instead of defending yourself out of instinct, show kindness and interest. Keep an open mind and heart while you listen. Recognize your colleague's efforts to help you grow as a person by letting you know how you come across to the outside world. Afterward, extend a heartfelt apology. Say something along the lines of, "Thanks for telling me." You have my sincere gratitude for your confidence in me. I apologise for what I stated being offensive. Finally, make a c ommitment to improving in the future. Say, "I'm interested in fostering an inclusive workplace, and I want to get better." Keep holding me responsible, please.
You didn't realise it was offensive because it was a casual remark. However, after being made aware of the slight by a coworker, you realise how inappropriate your words were. How do you apologise after using a microaggression if you want to be a good ally to your peers of color and people from marginalised groups? When and how should you make amends? What's the most effective approach to ensuring you perform better in the future?
What the Specialists Say
Microaggressions are small slights or insults that members of oppressed groups often face when they talk to people from all walks of life. The victim of discrimination, whether they are a member of a protected class due to their color, gender, sexual orientation, handicap, or religion, is frequently allowed to suffer in silence.
If someone accuses you of making a "microaggression," you should show empathy, care, and humility. You must "walk the walk" if you want people to appreciate you. It's crucial to do this correctly. Here are a few pointers.
Inhale and exhale.
It is unpleasant to be called out for a small act of aggression. You might experience "stress, shame, defensiveness, and your heart rate may even increase." This is commonplace. But do not allow these feelings to dictate your behavior. Instead, "breathe" is used. Be at peace. Recognize that just because you messed up doesn't make you a bad person.
Avoid making it about you.
You shouldn't respond defensively, even if being called out for a microaggression could be awkward and unsettling. "When someone tells you that your words or deeds have hurt them, you need to concentrate on the victim." It can be useful to remember that "every callout has an entire history's worth of unstated context behind it." When someone says, "What you said harmed me," they are essentially stating, "You have injured me in the same manner that people have hurt people like me in the past and me." In other words, your remark wasn't based on "just one interpersonal interaction." Instead, it was the legacy of centuries of injustice, brutality, and persecution.
Making the other person feel heard should be your top goal. They are taking a risk by putting themselves on the line, despite how tough it may be to hear the criticism. With an open mind and heart, pay attention to what they have to say. Be thankful. Someone reflecting back to you how you're showing up in the world and helping you improve is a truly sacred gift. Thank the other person, then "follow the other person's lead."
My sincere apologies
Next, you should "replace your instinctive defensiveness with curiosity and empathy" and say you're sorry. "You must confront the negative comment, accept the damage it caused, and resolve to do better," to complement the three apologies.
Say something to the effect of "Thank you for sharing it with me." Hearing is difficult. And I appreciate your trust in me enough to provide this feedback. then apologize for any offense caused by what you said or did.
Also, don't go overboard.
Some people tend to over-apologize after being called out for making an insensitive comment. They keep talking and saying things like, "I'm very sorry." I'm in such bad shape. I don't practice racism. "What do you think about me?" However, these hysterics are ineffective and only serve to amp up the insult. By requesting this employee to look after you, "you are exercising your power." Your coworker is not responsible for decreasing your guilt or for making you feel better about the circumstance. This shouldn't develop into "a pity party."
How to react when you are publicly criticised
All of these things are made much harder because the conversation is happening in front of other people. Private interactions are where most calls for microaggressions occur. However, if a coworker criticises your behaviour in front of others,
Be cautious in circumstances like these. Initially, pause. then thank them for providing that input.
On your own terms, try to understand.
If you are unsure whether what you said or did was discriminatory and harmful, don't drag your coworker into a lengthy discussion or try to persuade them of your good intentions. Instead, "Google it or ask around" to make sense of it.
Think about pursuing
"If you went hiking with someone and they tripped and injured themselves, you would follow up with them afterwards to convey your sincere care for their well-being." This is especially true if their fall was the result of your negligence. When "you have been the source of someone's emotional distress," the same rule should apply.
Continue your efforts.
The last thing to remember is that it takes effort to become a better, more tolerant, anti-racist, and anti-sexist person. You're trying your best; you're human and fallible, and you'll make mistakes occasionally. Rarely does a single discussion undo years of programming?
Principles to Remember
Make the other person feel heard and take the conversation where they lead.
Say you're sorry sincerely and that you recognise the impact and pain your comment caused.
Continue to improve yourself. Grace, humility, and commitment are needed.
Become a victim of the fundamental attribution mistake. You can still say something hurtful while having good intentions.
Make the topic of the discussion you. Instead, express appreciation for your colleague's confidence in your ability to change and their faith in you.
Lay on your privileged guilt to overdo your apology. You should be sincere in your apology.