One of the strongest tools we have in combatting microaggressions is to educate. Often, but not always, microaggressions are based in ignorance. They come from unexamined biases and stereotypes that we have learned from society and people around us. Encouraging each other to challenge our biases is one of the best things we can do to create safer and more inclusive environments. When a microaggression happens, compassionately calling in the person can help us to build a safer and more inclusive environment long term.

Some strategies for disarming a microaggression include:

  • Asking for further clarification: inquire as to what they mean and what lead them to think the way they are.
  • Separate intent from impact: acknowledge that their intent was likely not to cause harm, while explaining the unintended impact.
  • Share your feeling and perspective: use “I” statements to share how their behaviour or words affect you or share your learning journey on the subject.
  • Provide alternatives: suggest a different language or behaviour.

Want to see what this might look like in action? Check out this example:

Now, there are cases in which people are willfully ignorant and defensive of their biases. In these situations, I encourage you to prioritize your own well-being and safety. If you can, remove yourself from harmful situations or seek out the support of friends and trusted adults. Always consider any risk to your safety before addressing a microaggression.