Attend to impact before intention.
We’ve heard this principle before, but those five words are hard to put into practice, especially when dealing with microaggressions.* We often either don’t know why what we said or did is being called a microaggression, or we’re desperately resisting any possible inference that might lead to someone judging our behavior as racist. So how and where can we learn more?
Many of us know it is a double whammy to ask the person who is already reeling from yet another microaggression to educate us, the person who stimulated their pain, about what was wrong or why our actions constituted a microaggression. In our desire to hold care for those who are repeatedly impacted by microaggressions, we are left with several questions.
- How can we gain understanding of why our actions stimulated the pain of microaggressions?
- Who can we ask when we don’t want to ask those who are already in pain to be the source of our education?
- Where can we go to learn and practice more effective, empathetic ways of taking responsibility for our impact when we know we have stimulated this pain for others?
This five week series is your answer. Bring specific examples of microaggressions you’ve committed or wondered about, and we’ll unpack them together. We’ll walk through an understanding of the implicit messages that make certain expressions or actions painful. We’ll explore how to truly show up for the impact of our actions in ways that create the possibility for healing for those we’ve impacted. We’ll practice how to respond if we were the bystander observing a microaggression.
So, ready to be real? Eager to deepen your critical awareness of the situations that lead to some folks experiencing microaggressions a lot of the time? Ready for the challenge of empathic but direct coaching that won’t sugar-coat or minimize the impact we’re addressing? Committed to an NVC practice that values both realness and empathy?
Join us, Tuesdays in September, 8:30 – 10:00a PDT.
Notes on the intention and framing of the class
My goal in offering this space is to provide a forum for people, especially white people, who are worried about committing or have committed racial microaggressions to deepen their capacity to respond effectively. I’m creating a container where it is expected you’ll show up vulnerably with your lack of knowledge while maintaining a commitment to bring respect, civility, and empathy in our interactions. I expect that as folks work to share their experiences or ask questions, they’ll do so in ways that also reveal microaggressions and bias. As a result, I offer the following thoughts on the structure of the series to help you decide if this class will work for you.
- My series focus is on supporting learning and capacity building using NVC and critical awareness principles. Our priority is not empathy or healing although I fully expect we will experience both. If you’re stimulated, we may offer very brief empathy to help you return to the shared intention. If you need more extensive healing, we’ll see if someone is willing to hold empathic space with you in a breakout room while the course continues. If you need more support than is available in the group, we’ll invite you to take a break and get empathy from your community offline.
- One category of micraggressions — microassaults — describes traditional discrimination characterized by purposeful discriminatory actions such as name-calling, avoidance and biased treatment. The focus for this series is on the other two categories- micro invalidations and microinsults, both of which are more likely to be unintentional.
- We expect real talk, coupled with civility. Our intent is to fully use the power of NVC to make observations, not judgments or personal attacks. Our goal is to call you in, not call you out. Read my article on Calling in vs Calling out to have a clearer sense of what we’re striving for.
- In most of the work I lead, I intentionally seek to undo one of the consequences of patriarchy and white supremacy by re-centering the experiences of BIPOC folks. In this course, I am purposely creating a space where everyone, but especially white people, can gain understanding and learn strategies for repair. I will of necessity be focusing on the experiences that participants bring, which may look like a centering of the experiences of white participants. That said, of course BIPOC folks can also commit racial microaggressions and are welcome to join the class. If you are a BIPOC person who wishes to join, with an intention of supporting the learning of white people attending the class as well as deepening your own learning, I gratefully welcome you.
* Not sure what I mean by microaggressions?