Our implicit biases cause us to make assumptions about others based on their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, where they grew up, etcetera.
Microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults.
Microresistance is an individual or collaborative effort to empower, cope with, respond to, and/or challenge microaggressions. The goal is to disrupt systems of oppression as they unfold in everyday life.
The acronym OTFD stands for “Open The Front Door.” It is used as a way to remind us to open a door to communication rather than closing it. Developed by Learning Forum, OTFD helps to organize one’s thoughts to respond to a microaggression in a manner that can be heard by the perpetrator rather than having them shut down in defensiveness.
OTFD also represents four steps: state what you Observe (I noticed that…”); Think (express a thought or opinion); Feel (share a feeling linked to the statement or incident); and Desire (let the other person know the outcome you’d like to achieve, for example, “I’d like for us to be friends”).
The goal of OTFD is to articulate feelings in a positive and direct manner. By practicing this technique regularly, you can build a safe environment to resolve differences and maintain strong relationships.
You can also take ACTION in order to elicit empathy from the perpetrator. ACTION stands for Ask (ask clarifying questions to assist with understanding intentions), Curiosity (come from curiosity), Tell (tell what you observed as problematic in a factual manner), Impact (address the potential impact of the offending statement or action), Own (own your own thoughts and feelings around the impact), and Next (next steps: request appropriate action be taken).
For example, ask the perpetrator “I want to make sure that I understand what you were saying. Were you saying that ____?” This may help them explore the impact of their statement or behavior. Listen actively and openly to their response.
Curiosity might look like saying, “Can you please help me understand what you meant by that?” Tell what you observed by saying, “I noticed that ____.” Address the impact of the statement or action by asking, “What impact do you think that comment could have on ____.”
By owning your thoughts and feelings, you might say, “When I hear your comment I think/feel ____.” Next steps could include some type of encouragement, such as saying, “I’d appreciate it if you’d consider doing ____.”
Remember, the ACTION framework should address the situation and cool down tensions. Doing nothing is actually a damaging option.
Take a short test to check your implicit bias on many topics, including weight, race, skin tone, sexuality, and disability at Harvard’s Project Implicit, implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html.