I led a training a few weeks back on micro behaviors. I started off with the official definition:
Micro-behaviors are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial, gender, sexual orientation, and religious slights and insults to the target person or group” (Sue, Capodilup, et al, 2007).
Intentional or unintentional
We have all heard them, and we have all said them at various points ( myself included).
- “Where are you from?”
- “You don’t even speak with an accent.”
- “There is only one race. The human race.”
- “I am not homophobic. I have a gay friend.”
- “She’s so independent, you wouldn’t even know she’s in a wheelchair! “
- “Everyone can succeed if they work hard – just look at Obama!”
- ” I can’t be expected to learn new pronouns for people, its just a fad anyway”
Intentional or unintentional
We don’t mean to hurt someone’s feeling. We don’t mean to question their citizenship. We were not implying that a person is presumed to be dangerous, criminal, or deviant based on their race, nationality and/or sexual orientation. We were just trying to connect with someone and was asking questions trying to build rapport.
Here is what we need to remember:
Micro-behaviors are situational; there is no formula. Tone, context, and timing can all impact whether the statement is an example of a micro behavior or friends joking. Reading a room, being sensitive to the tone, body language, and facial expressions of participants are some ways you can stay aware of how comments are being received and the impact they are having.
But here is the thing: Not everything is for us to comment on.
Not everything is our business.
Our opinions are not always welcome nor always needed. More time than not it is our place to sit, listen, and learn. Trust is built slowly and over time.
Implications of Microbehavior
- Micro-behaviors result in harmful psychological consequences and create disparities.
- They sap the spiritual energies of recipients and lead to low self‐esteem
- Psychological implications – anxiety, paranoia, depression, sleep difficulties, lack of confidence, worthlessness, intrusive thoughts, helplessness, loss of drive, lower morale and engagement, lower productivity
They destroy dignity.They chip away at our humanity.
They harm us all. Keep in mind that a micro behavior is an opportunity for learning and growth for those who have offended and those who are offended. I try to meet microaggressions with information and not additional aggression. Sometimes that is easier said than done.Sometimes I fall short.
When met with information, they are an opportunity to build genuine community and connection.
Many times micro behaviors come from a place of ignorance, not malice. You will change more minds if you can address these comments with accurate information and pass on wisdom and understanding.
It’s all of our jobs to help restore that lost dignity. If I am not fighting for your dignity then you better believe that I am losing pieces of my own.
We all must
Protect each other
Love each other
Defend each other
Let’s get free together.