Dealing with Microaggressions

How bystanders can shut down microaggressions

The following text is from How bystanders can shut down microaggressions.


How can you effectively intervene when you see someone being targeted for an aspect of their identity? Psychologists studying intergroup relations and perspective-taking offer this advice.

If you overheard one of these statements, what would you do?

“Your English is very good.”

“You’re pretty for a Black girl.”

“What do gay people think about the state of marriage equality?”

“You’re so brave—I could never live with a disability.”

Microaggressions, subtle everyday interactions that convey bias toward a marginalized group, are often disguised as compliments or innocent questions. Though some are meant to cause harm, many are unintentional. But targets of such comments suffer psychological distress, including an increase in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and can face backlash if they speak up (Torres, L., & Taknint, J. T., Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol. 62, No. 3, 2015; Abdullah, T., et al., Traumatology, online first publication, 2021).

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