Microaggressions are both accidental or purposeful verbal, behavioral, or environmental behaviors that express hatred toward repressed or marginalized groups, such as people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, disabled people, and religious and ethnic minorities. In addition, microaggressions are when people show their beliefs and opinions in more indirect ways.
Why do Microaggressions Occur?
Microaggressions are often the result of deep-seated prejudices towards people who are different from ourselves. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of their prejudices until they are confronted with them in a discussion or conflict due to their upbringing. It is, nevertheless, human to make a lot of mistakes.
That’s likely one of the reasons why only 3% of Black employees desire to come back to work full-time, compared to 21% of White personnel. For all of these reasons, we think that identifying and minimizing microaggressions is critical to creating a more compassionate and productive workplace.
Types of Microaggressions
These are overt types of prejudice in which actors act in a discriminatory manner on purpose. However, they may believe that their activities go unnoticed or are not detrimental. For instance, whenever someone says, That’s so homosexual to imply that something must be strange, they are aware of the terms they use; nevertheless, they may not be conscious that such terminology is hurtful.
Microassaults include employing racial adjectives to refer to someone as colored, preventing interracial relationships, serving a white person before someone of color delivering a racist joke.
People subconsciously transmit discriminatory sentiments to individuals of specific groups through comments or behaviors. A person could, for instance, tell an Asian Person that they speak fine English, indicating that Asian Americans do not. This situation might be particularly unpleasant for Asian Americans who do not speak a language other than English.
Anyone reminding a Black person that they are “so eloquent” is one example of a racial microinsult they can face. Other instances include making racist praises on social media or through online dating sites.
People might think things that appear to be praised, but they convey harmful ethnic prejudice in the process. Consider the following scenario:
- For an African, telling someone that they are lovely.
- Being extremely impressed with someone’s abilities, such as complimenting an Asian person, “Wow!” You are a fantastic driver!’
- ‘Wow!’ someone says. Telling them that they have a superb command of the English language as though assuming them to be unable to do so.
These are remarks made by members of target groups that reject, invalidate, or undermine their realities. For example, when someone tells a person of color that racism doesn’t exist, they invalidate and reject that person’s racial experience.
Unprofessional treatment of employees irritates 45% of workers, and nearly one-third of those surveyed said it would make individuals contemplate quitting their job. When a white person tells a Black person that they will be colorblind or that racism doesn’t exist, they are invalidating racial reality. It is detrimental to invalidate the reality of prejudice faced by targeted groups.
How to Respond to Microaggression?
If the victim chooses to retaliate to the microaggression, they must consider the best course of action.
- Passive-aggressive Retaliation
This might include making a snarky comment or making a joke to express their dissatisfaction and fury towards the wrongdoer. This type of approach, on the other hand, may exacerbate the dispute.
- A Proactive Approach
A person who is subjected to microaggressions frequently may react by shouting at the attacker. This reaction can be beneficial for some people since it allows them to release cooped stress and anxiety. However, this might lead to further strife.
- A Confident Answer
A person might also be strong by gently addressing the aggressor and explaining how their acts and behaviors made them think. Supervisors should communicate to their staff about potential microaggressions, according to 47% of respondents. Assertive reactions have the potential to teach.
When responding to a microaggression, it’s critical to be precise, truthful, and firm. Even yet, the offender may get defensive in some situations, resulting in further microaggressions.
- A Communicative Response
A person might tell the culprit that their acts are racist sans branding them as racist. This may help anyone communicate more effectively without coming out as defensive. The recipient of a microaggression should acknowledge that, while the microaggression may have been inadvertent, it is nonetheless discriminatory and harmful and clarify accordingly.
What to do When You’ve Committed a Microaggression?
Almost everyone has made a microaggression at some point, but not everyone is used to being spoken out on it and reacting gracefully. Accepting critique, despite how passionately we embrace the concept of unlearning our prejudices, is tough for the best of us. As a result, rather than treating these conflicts as personal attacks, it’s critical to view them as learning opportunities.
Only 10% of participants felt they had personally perpetrated a microaggression, which is unsurprising, but knowing and accepting responsibility is crucial. You are not a powerless problematic individual just because you have said something troublesome. On the contrary, you may make great progress in matching one’s statements and deeds with your philosophy if you listen to others’ problems with an open mind and heart.
With that in consideration, here are some other things to remember if you’re contacted by someone who is disturbed or offended by anything you’ve said or done:
- Refrain from reacting defensively. Receiving criticism is difficult, especially when it’s for anything you didn’t realize you were doing – like how to engage with a colleague in a wheelchair sans disempowering them. You didn’t want to insult them, but that doesn’t make the hurt you’ve given them any less genuine.
- With a sympathetic heart, truly listen. Avoid stating anything like “I didn’t mean it” or “I was only kidding.” You could come out as trying to invalidate the other person’s experience if you explain you did not intend it. Calling the meeting a joke, on the other hand, may appear to be making light of the other person’s suffering. Strive to sympathize with and comprehend their sentiments as they express them.
- Acknowledge your influence verbally. Regardless of your intentions, it’s critical to acknowledge and accept responsibility for the harm you’ve caused someone. Verbal acknowledgment is also a pledge you make to yourself and the other person. It’s a method of saying that you have listened and internalized what you said. You now understand the harm you caused.
It’s not about embracing your prejudices as unavoidable; it’s about understanding how they influence others and distancing yourself from them. Every employee in a firm makes a difference in terms of inclusion and belonging. That’s why making reasonable programs to inform yourself, welcome unexpected viewpoints, and act is the first step toward creating a truly diverse, egalitarian, and inclusive workforce.