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What about....?

Here are some specific situations to think about and some helpful suggestions.

Cultural Differences?

When we open up our homes to people outside our families, we provide more than meals and guest rooms. We surround them with our habits, our beliefs and our traditions. Broaden your hospitality by understanding and respecting the cultural needs and norms of your guest.

  • Be proactive. Before house-guests arrive, ask if they have any special dietary restrictions or other needs. Also, share any household traditions or practices you have that may affect them.
  • Pay attention. When we miss or ignore social cues and clues, we can stumble into awkward moments. Pay attention to subtleties of communication, hesitancy from a guest before beginning a meal might indicate a need for a moment of silent prayer, for example.
  • Focus on behavior, not beliefs. If you feel the need to ask questions, center it on behavior rather than beliefs. "John, you used to drink in college. Have you stopped?" This may open, rather than close, a conversation.
  • Accept information at face value. If someone declines one thing, offer another without judgment or inference. "Would you like a soft drink instead?" Or, "We also have milk or juice; would that work?" Be gracious. Aim to please, not judge.
  • Take responsibility. If you do stumble, don't let someone else's graciousness take you off the hook. Make amends as quickly and sincerely as possible: "What an insensitive thing for me to say. I'm sorry.'


Unwanted "joke" emails forwarded by a friend/ colleague?

People often forward emails without critical thought about its content, or the people receiving it. And email provides a broad reach with a click of a button, an email can be sent to hundreds of people. Emailed prejudice can come from people you know, or people you don't. How can you respond? Try this:

  • Forward no more. Stop emailed prejudice at your computer. Don't forward it; instead, delete it. A simple deletion isn't the same as speaking up, of course but it's a solid first step in breaking the chain.
  • Reply to sender. Explain that the email offended you and ask to be removed from any future emailings. Be sure to explain why that you find prejudiced language offensive, and that so-called "jokes" are unfunny and that stereotypes are unfair, bigoted and harmful.
  • Reply to All. Do the same thing, but hit "reply all" sharing your thoughts with everyone on the email list.  Others then may follow your example. Imagine the powerful statement that would be made if all recipients responded in this way.


Prejudice from my Boss?

When prejudice comes from the boss, it's easy to assume nothing can be done. The boss has all the power, right? Regardless of a company's size, nothing gets done without the workers; your power rests in this simple fact. Try these response techniques:

  • Focus on the company's people. "A lot of different kinds of people work for you, and for this company. We come to work every day and give you our best. What you just said, does not really honor me and the other people here?"
  • Tie tolerance to the bottom line. Remind your supervisor that when people feel valued and respected, a healthy and productive work environment emerges.
  • Go up the ladder. Consider your options, based on your supervisor's temperament and the office environment. If you're uncomfortable confronting the boss directly, consult your company's human resources department to find out what harassment policies are in place and whether they apply.


Prejudiced Bullying?

Students are teased and harassed every day, for all kinds of reasons, including being different. When you or someone you love becomes the target of biased bullying, consider the following:

  • Respond to the bully. Some people find power in "owning" their identities. When bullying is ongoing, practice non-aggressive ways to respond; brainstorm witty or humorous comebacks.
  • Create a safety net. Stay close to friends or adults. Let them know what's happening. Students, teachers and others often are willing to stand together against such prejudice. There truly is power in numbers.
  • Check policy. Does your school have an anti-harassment policy in place that applies to this situation? Or anti-bullying rules that could be used to address the bad behavior? If so, apply them. If not, lobby for such policies.


Offensive Jokes?

Humor can enliven the workplace, provide relief from routine tasks and help foster team spirit. When humor goes sour, however, the work culture suffers, and collegiality can be harmed or damaged. When faced with bigoted "jokes" in the office, try this:

  • Don't laugh. Meet a bigoted "joke" with silence, and maybe a raised eyebrow. Use body language to communicate your distaste for bigoted "humor."
  • Interrupt the laughter. "Why does everyone think that's funny?" Tell your co-workers why the "joke" offends you, that it feels demeaning and prejudicial.
  • Set a "not in my workspace" rule. Prohibit prejudice in your cubicle, your office or whatever other boundaries define your workspace. Be firm, and get others to join in. Allies can be invaluable in helping to curb bigoted remarks and behavior at the workplace.
  • Provide alternate humor. Learn and share jokes that don't rely on bias, prejudice or stereotypes as the root of their humor.
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