Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Polite Call-Outs

Sometimes people we know say terrible things. They may have a deep-seated prejudice they need to address, or they may simply be privileged enough that they don't realize certain things are hurtful.

There may be times when you cannot speak up (to your boss or the person who donates tons of money to your company, for example), and that's OK. You can't be expected to put your livelihood in jeopardy. But when it's a friend or family member, you may want to call them out.

First off, make sure you have some knowledge on the topic. If they challenge you, there's a chance you may need examples or arguments to back you up. You don't need to do a dissertation, but reading a few websites and learning some talking points can go a long way.

Next, you need to be sure to be polite and firm. People won't generally respond well if you are too argumentative (I realize there's a sort of double standard in making sure you're polite when the other person was offensive, but if you want them to listen it's for the best).

Clearly state what the problem is, preferable with "I" statements. "When you said X, I felt Y because Z." This may be where they push back and you need to have some more information in mind. But it's also perfectly acceptable to tell them to do their own research. You can't be expected to educate everyone, and it can be exhausting to try.

If the person accuses you of being the "PC police" just remember that there's nothing wrong with that. "PC" just means someone who prefers not to use language that can hurt and oppress groups of people, and that's a whole lot better than the alternative.

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