I hear more and more about microaggressions – slight, often unintended discriminatory comments or behaviors directed towards some individual or group. Microaggressions are subtle and often reveal a subconscious bias.
It’s easy to discount microaggressions. I admit it, I’ve dismissed them as simply one more area that the sensitive “snowflakes” are complaining about. But then I realize that part of why I dismiss it is because of my own discomfort with my own subconscious bias. And when I see the compounding effects that microaggressions can have on anyone – not just the sensitive, “you aren’t allowed to hurt my feelings or offend me” types – I have to admit that they are real and their effects can be considerable.
None of us are immune to being the recipient of microaggression and, perhaps even more disturbing, none of us are immune to committing microaggressions. We all identify with certain groups and view those outside its parameters as “others.” We all hold bias, whether conscious or subconscious, formed from experience, ignorance or transmitted belief. And we all can act in such a way that we are communicating our bias and making others feel badly.
So how can you stop your own acts of microaggression?
In order to recognize your own bias, you have to first accept that you have bias. No human is completely impartial. No person is immune to cognitive shortcuts and assumptions that sway perception and interpretation.
Once bias is accepted, the next step is to recognize it in the moment. And while it’s easy to see in others, it’s much more difficult to observe in ourselves. It all comes down to mindfulness. To being present in the moment. To being aware of your words and your actions and also being observant of their effects.
Let go of your impulse to dismiss it as “nothing” and resist any defensiveness that arises. Aim to use the technique of noting, “Oh, I just gripped my purse tighter when that man walked by and I didn’t do it when the previous people walked by.” Once noted, explore what subconscious belief might lie beneath that action and identify the antecedent (the “cause” or preceding situation) that led to that response.
Using mindfulness again, practice recognizing the antecedent and halting your subconscious biased response before it occurs.
Now here’s the twist. Once recognized, instead of simply stopping one behavior, aim to replace it with another – an intentional act of microappreciation.
So what is microappreciation?
A slight, intentional awareness, recognition and acknowledgement of unity and value.
Whereas microaggression focuses on what we fear, microappreciation centers on what we see.
Microaggression listens to the premonitions of “what if.” Microappreciation abides by the curiosity of “why not?”
Microaggression jumps to conclusions. Microappreciation leaps to awareness.
Microaggression is based on judgments. Microappreciation is centered on observation.
Microaggression stems from bias. Microappreciation comes from openness.
Microaggression assumes a threat. Microappreciation believes in possibility.
Both are small stones entering into life’s pond, ripples spreading out from their impact.
Let your pebble be one of gratitude.