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Diversity Leadership Tip -- How to Challenge Discriminatory Comments
by Al Vivian
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"How to Challenge Discriminatory Comments"

You're at a public function and you hear someone make a racist or sexist or homophobic comment. You know they're wrong and you want to challenge them but suddenly you're struck with fear. You're afraid that "you're going to look like an idiot", or that "you're going to make a scene which ruins the event", or whatever. We can all come up with grand excuses to rationalize our way into doing the "easy wrong", verses the "hard right". As a result, you say or do nothing. You're not alone. We've all been there before. Most of the times we avoid challenging people; not because we agree with them, but because we're afraid to confront them. This fear exists primarily because we don't know how to challenge inappropriate comments.

Well let me give you a simple tool to help alleviate this fear, and give you the confidence to challenge. It's a very simple process I created called the "S.T.A.R. Method" -- Stop, Tell, Assist, Restore. Here's how it works. You hear someone make an inappropriate and/or discriminatory comment, follow these 4 steps:

1. STOP -- Cut them off, that's right, interrupt their statement. And by the way, you can do this without being rude. Example: You can interrupt them by saying "That's an interesting perspective.." or "I understand why you might feel that way..".

2. TELL - Tell them that you don't agree with their opinion and/or statement. And no, you don't have to start an argument. In fact, you should go out of your way to avoid an argument. Example: "..those aren't my views.." or "I never thought of it quite that way."

3. ASSIST - Explain why you don't agree. The important point here, is not to stress that they're wrong; but that you just don't agree with them. Example: "I just happen to have a different perspective. I believe that ..". If you also happen to have a few statistics or anecdotal stories they can strengthen your case.

4. RESTORE -- This is the most important step, and unfortunately, the one that most of us usually overlook. Restore them. Let them know that you do not think they're a bad person. That way they'll be more likely to come to you in the future for additional advice. Diversity leadership is not about feeling good because you crushed someone's ego, no matter how much you feel they deserve it. It's about inspiring people to be more inclusive. Example: "Hey, I hope you don't feel that I overstepped my boundaries. It's just that I know you're a good person, and that you wouldn't want to say anything that someone else might find offensive. That's why I took the time to share my perspective".

That's it, 4 easy steps. So the next time you have occasion to correct the random inappropriate comment, diplomatically deploy the "S.T.A.R. Method". Like with any other new process, initially, you'll feel a little uncomfortable until it becomes a habit. But practice makes perfect. Eventually, you'll become so comfortable with this process, that you'll walk away from every corrective interaction feeling like a "S.T.A.R."

© Copyright 2009 | Al Vivian, President & CEO, BASIC Diversity, Inc.