Two nights ago my phone woke me up with a blaring security alert -- *BLAAAAM* now any adult in the county can receive a COVID vaccine free of charge!
What if we got public health alerts for social concerns?
*BLAAAM* now you can get your colleagues trained in how not to micro-aggress one another!
And in some ways we do--, COVID is communicative, after all. You can’t get it by sitting at home alone. It’s a disease of passage. Or, as one description reminded me: COVID requires micro-doses of avoidable viral bits.
Great framing for COVID and for interpersonal relationships. Microaggressions are at their core micro-doses of avoidable bullshit. I don’t use BS to be offensive, but to highlight how microaggressions are 100% avoidable and unnecessary. One of the biggest confusions is how something said in passing, briefly, or even intended as a compliment can possibly be damaging.
So let’s break it down --
The compliment myth
-- Say your mom keeps praising you for doing your laundry. This might’ve been positive reinforcement at age 10, but when you’re a functional adult at the office being over the top praised for doing your basic job, it’s pretty infantilizing.
>> Microdose: Ask your colleague to affirm themselves. Give everyone a chance to brag just a little and be seen for what they’re proud of and what they feel they have to offer. Then it’s your turn to receive who they are and what they contribute.
The censorship myth
-- What if I offend someone? Should I just keep my mouth shut? This is a fear-based response that requires you to have zero faith in your colleagues' ability to communicate productively. If you’re guided by fear of offending someone, you’re already positioning them as an inconvenience to your comfort rather than a full person to co-create a conversation with.
>> Microdose: Give insight that you’re grappling with a question or unsure how to tackle a topic. Just give a little insight into your world and don’t put the onus on the other person to satisfy you.
The you can’t “punch up” myth
-- At the end of the day, power structures -- “up” and “down” hierarchies in an organization -- are relative and contextual. Remember when Barack Obama let us all know that white ladies would clutch their purses in elevators with him… even when he was a Senator?
-- The more visible a woman is, the more her appearance tends to be the center of attention. In some cases, it’s part of the job, like when a movie star is asked what she’s wearing on the red carpet. But commenting on a woman’s appearance repeatedly or without talking about her talents and accomplishments isn’t productive, no matter how rich, famous, or well connected she may be.
Microaggressions are a bit like The Princess Bride -- you’re not quite sure if you're drinking a goblet of wine or of poison until it’s halfway down. But the answer isn’t for everyone to shut up, the answer is to develop empathy and outgrow your own self-centrism. Maybe that can be the next public health alert:
*BING BING!* here’s your official invitation to be relational, get curious about your assumptions, and stop spreading microdoses of avoidable BS!