Experts often compare microaggressions to death by a thousand little cuts. Whether you’ve been on the receiving end of a microaggression or the victim of an annoying papercut, you understand the level of pain referenced by this vivid comparison. Many Black women experience microaggressions so often that coping with them seems like an impossible task. However, though ignoring them may seem tempting, the toll that these comments, insults and slights can take on your mental and physical health should not be taken lightly.
How many times have you asked yourself any of the following questions: Was that really a microaggression? Should I say something? What should I say? You may even be so used to these violations that you ignore them and never ask yourself any of these questions.
Here are some tips that experts offer for dealing with the stress of microaggressions:
First, remain calm and take a deep breath. Your anger is understandable but responding from that anger may end up hurting you more than the offender. Honor your feelings but take a pause and try not to react right away.
Kevin Nadal, a professor of psychology at John Jay College, developed a toolkit called the Guide to Responding to Microaggressions. In it, he suggests asking yourself the following questions:
- If I respond, could my physical safety be in danger?
- If I respond, will the person become defensive and will this lead to an argument?
- If I respond, how will this affect my relationship with this person (co-worker, acquaintance, family member)
- If I don’t respond, will I regret not saying something?
- If I don’t respond, does that convey that I accept their behavior?
It can be emotionally draining to bear the burden of thinking through your response to microaggression, but it is ultimately for your own good and not for the benefit of the aggressor. Think about what you want to accomplish with your response. Are you looking for a particular solution or do you just want to feel heard? Maybe your interest lies in educating the other person so they know that what they did was wrong. Having an end goal in mind can help you shape the most appropriate response.
Most importantly, practice self-care. When you experience microaggressions, a safe place to discuss your thoughts is extremely valuable. Whether with likeminded co-workers, family members or Sorors, expressing your feelings needs to be a part of your coping process.
Do you regularly deal with microaggressions? Let us know in the comments.