‘You’re so lame!’ ‘Never do any work for Indians or Chinese unless you get the money in trust first.’ ‘Family law clients often go a little psycho.’ ‘That was so gay!’ ‘Asians are such bad drivers.’ ‘You run like a girl.’ ‘Dear Sirs,…’ ‘Millennials are so entitled.’
Everyday bigotry is everywhere. You’ve probably said it. You’ve definitely heard it. Some of it is intentional and some of it not, but the impact is equally damaging. We often don’t know how to respond when we hear it and so we often participate in the conversation or just let it slide. How to speak up can feel very confronting – especially if it is with a family member or a work colleague. Each relationship is different, so how you might open the conversation with one person could be very different with someone else. Try some of these on for size to see which feel comfortable for you.
- ‘I value our relationship so much, and we’ve always been so close. Those remarks are putting a lot of distance between us, and I don’t want to feel distanced from you.’
- ‘Every time I come over, you tell ‘jokes’ I find offensive. While some people might laugh along with you, I don’t. I’ve asked you not to tell them, but you keep doing it anyway.’
- ‘I’m sorry; what’s so funny? Can you explain that to me?’
- ‘Now that the biased part of the conversation is over, let’s get down to business’
- ‘That comment sounded like a put down of indigenous Australians. Is that what you meant?
- ‘Can we please have a quick chat about the comment you made earlier? It might not have been a big deal to you but…’
- ‘I’m sure that you didn’t mean to suggest that women can’t be effective leaders in our organisation’
- ‘What do you mean by that?’
- ‘The 1950s called and they want their stereotypes back’
- ‘Lots of different types of people work hard for this company and I don’t think what you said was very respectful to them.’
- ‘I enjoy our relationship, but when you say things like that it makes me feel really uncomfortable.’
- ‘If someone described you like that, how would it make you feel?’
Focus on the actual behaviours rather than generalisations and don’t give out free passes because ‘Jane’s always been like that’ or ‘Grandpa is too old to change his ways now.’ Sometimes it is a conversation you need to have in the moment and sometimes a private conversation afterwards can be more appropriate, but whatever you do remember to speak up. Change happens one conversation at a time. And after all, the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. (Thanks to the Diversity Council of Australia for the inspiration)
Written by Lisa Stockwell
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