Responding To Microaggressions In The Classroom

The term “microaggression” was coined in 1970 to name relatively slight, subtle, and often unintentional offenses that cause harm (Pierce, 1970). Since then, a substantial body of research on microaggressions has demonstrated their prevalence and harmful effects (Boysen, 2012; Solorzan, et. al., 2010; Suárez-Orozco, et. al., 2015; Sue, 2010).

Whether an observer, the target, or the unintentional perpetrator of microaggressions, faculty often don’t know how to respond to them in the moment. We may feel frozen (if the observer) or defensive (if the target or perpetrator). How we respond can shift the communication climate from supportive to defensive, which can have an adverse effect on student learning and comfort (Dallimore, et al, 2005; Souza, et al, 2010).

Despite the feelings of paralysis or reactivity that tend to emerge in response to microaggressions in the classroom, certain practices can be implemented to increase the likelihood of maintaining a supportive climate. The following communication framework is offered as one of many possible response strategies to help faculty feel better equipped to effectively respond when a microaggression occurs.

I developed this framework (first introduced in Chueng, Ganote, & Souza, 2016) as an interactive response one could take to a microaggression by a student in the classroom. The acronym and steps below provide a guide on how to take ACTION rather than feeling frozen when faced with a microaggression.

Ask clarifying questions to assist with understanding intentions.

“I want to make sure that I understand what you were saying.  Were you saying that…?”

Come from curiosity not judgment.

  • Listen actively and openly to their response.
  • If they disagree with your paraphrase and clarify a different meaning, you could end the conversation. If you suspect they are trying to “cover their tracks,” you may consider making a statement about the initial comment to encourage learning.

I’m glad to hear I misunderstood you, because, as you know, such comments can be…”

  • If they agree with your paraphrase, explore their intent behind making the comment.

Can you tell me what you were you hoping to communicate with that comment?”

“Can you please help me understand what you meant by that?

Tell what you observed as problematic in a factual manner.

“I noticed that . . .”

Impact exploration: ask for, and/or state, the potential impact of such a statement or action on others.

“What do you think people think when they hear that type of comment?”

“As you know, everything speaks. What message do you think such a comment sends?”

“What impact do you think that comment could have on …”

Own your own thoughts and feelings around the impact.

“When I hear your comment I think/feel…”

“Many people might take that comment to mean…”

“In my experience, that comment can perpetuate negative stereotypes and assumptions about… I would like to think that is not your intent.”

Next steps: Request appropriate action be taken.

“Our class is a learning community, and such comments make it difficult for us to focus on learning because people feel offended. So I am going to ask you to refrain from stating your thoughts in that manner in the future. Can you do that please?”

“I encourage you to revisit your view on X as we discuss these issues more in class.”

“I’d appreciate it if you’d consider using a different term because it is inconsistent with our course agreement regarding X…”

When practiced, the ACTION framework can be a tool that is quickly retrieved out of your mental toolbox to organize your thoughts and unpack the microaggression in a way that addresses the situation and cools down tension.

When students make comments that are microaggressive in the classroom, doing nothing is a damaging option (Souza, Vizenor, Sherlip, & Raser, 2016). Instead, we can engage thoughtfully and purposively in strategies that maintain a positive climate that is conducive to learning and models the skills needed in responding to microaggressions in any context (Souza, 2016).


Source: Responding to Microaggressions in the Classroom: Taking ACTION


Related contents:

“Neurobiology of Escalated Aggression and Violence”. Journal of Neuroscience. 27 (44): 11803–11806. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3500-07.2007. ISSN 0270-6474. PMC 2667097. PMID 17978016.Buss, A. H. (1961). The psychology of aggression. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.Wahl, Klaus (2020).

The Radical Right. Biopsychosocial Roots and International Variations. London: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 47. ISBN 978-3-030-25130-7. OCLC 1126278982.Wahl, Klaus (2013).

Aggression und Gewalt. Ein biologischer, psychologischer und sozialwissenschaftlicher Überblick. Heidelberg: Spektrum Akademischer Verlag. p. 2. ISBN 978-3-8274-3120-2. OCLC 471933605.

Aggression: Its causes, consequences, and control. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.McEllistrem, Joseph E. (2004). “Affective and predatory violence: A bimodal classification system of human aggression and violence”. Aggression and Violent Behavior. 10 (1): 1–30. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2003.06.002.

Relational Aggression Among Students Principal Leadership, October, copyright the National Association of Secondary School Principals

“International Court May Define Aggression as Crime”. The New York Times.Nathaniel Snow

Violence and Aggression in Sports: An In-Depth Look (Part One) (Part 2Part 3) Bleacher Report, 23 March 2010

Journal of Psychiatric Research. 41 (6): 488–92. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2006.04.009. PMID 16765987.Barbara Krahé (11 February 2013).

The Social Psychology of Aggression: 2nd Edition. Psychology Press. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-136-17772-9.Elizabeth Kande Englander (30 January 2003).

Understanding Violence. Psychology Press. pp. 55–86. SBN 978-1-135-65676-8.Merriam-Webster: Aggression Retrieved 10 January 2012

Online Etymology Dictionary: Aggression Retrieved 10 January 2012Stearns, D. C. (2003).

Anger and aggression. Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood: In History and Society. Paula S. Fass (Ed.). Macmillan Reference Books

Developmental Origins of Aggression, 2005, The Guilford Press.

“Numerical assessment affects aggression and competitive ability: A team-fighting strategy for the ant Formica xerophila”. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 273 (1602): 2737–42. doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.3626. JSTOR 25223670. PMC 1635503. PMID 17015327.

Lethal intergroup aggression leads to territorial expansion in wild chimpanzees”. Current Biology. 20 (12): R507–8. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2010.04.021. PMID 20620900. S2CID 6493161.Issa, F. A.; Adamson, D. J.; Edwards, D. H. (1999).

Dominance hierarchy formation in juvenile crayfish procambarus clarkii”. The Journal of Experimental Biology. 202 (24): 3497–506. doi:10.1242/jeb.202.24.3497. PMID 10574728.

“Individual Variation in Social Aggression and the Probability of Inheritance: Theory and a Field Test” (PDF). The American Naturalist. 167 (6): 837–52. doi:10.1086/503445. hdl:10871/26263. PMID 16615035. S2CID 12094679.

Aggression and Peacefulness in Humans and Other Primates ISBN 0-19-507119-0

Evolution and the psychology of intergroup conflict: The male warrior hypothesis”. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 367 (1589): 670–9. doi:10.1098/rstb.2011.0301. JSTOR 41433544. PMC 3260849. PMID 22271783.uss, D.M. (2005).

The murderer next door: Why the mind Is designed to kill. New York: Penguin Press.

“The evolution of aggression”. In Schaller, M.; Simpson, J. A.; Kenrick, D. T. (eds.). Evolution and Social Psychology. New York: Psychology Press. pp. 263–86.Briffa, Mark (2010).

“Territoriality and Aggression”. Nature Education Knowledge. 3 (10): 81.Archer, John (2009).

Does sexual selection explain human sex differences in aggression?” (PDF). Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 32 (3–4): 249–66, discussion 266–311. doi:10.1017/S0140525X09990951. PMID 19691899.

The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, edited by David M. Buss, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005. Chapter 21 by Anne Campbell.[page needed]Zuk, M. “

Sexual Selections: What We Can and Can’t Learn about Sex from Animals.” University of California Press, 2002[page needed]


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How Parents Can Encourage Their Child’s Joy

One of the unexpected delights of being a parent is having a front row seat to seeing a child’s joy—whether it’s excitement at zoo, the experience of riding a train, or just getting a slushie on a summer day. “Most children have a huge capacity for joy,” said Maureen Healy, a child psychology expert and author of the book The Happiness Workbook For Kids.

“Some children are born with challenges that make it difficult for them to experience joy, because of the environment or biological reasons, but most children are joyful.” As a parent, one of the struggles is finding a way to help your children retain their capacity for joy even as the difficulties of life get in the way.

Supportive relationships are essential

To help maintain your child’s capacity for joy, one essential component is helping them develop supportive relationships. “You need to have someone you can talk to,” Healy said. “For an adult, a supportive relationship is, ‘who would you call at two in the morning?’ It’s the same thing as a kid: ‘Who can you talk to when you are feeling bullied?’

As Healy notes, children will often internalize the bad circumstances around them and think that it’s their own fault. “You need to have another supportive relationship,” Healy said, someone who can offer comfort and a different perspective, one which can help them recalibrate what is going on in their life.

Help your child lean into their strengths

Another component of helping your child retain their joy is helping them embrace their strengths and offer unconditional acceptance of their interests. “Developing their strengths is part of joy,” Healy said. “I’ve had parents who have said to me, ‘I have a guitar player, but I wanted a doctor.’ You want to do your best as an adult to unconditionally accept and encourage them.”

One way to do that is by letting your child participate in making decisions about what they want to do or how they spend their time, such as choosing their own extracurricular activities—even if those activities are unusual or unexpected. “Allow your child to be a voice in participating and finding their joy,” Healy said.

Set an example for getting through tough times

When the tough times hit, it’s important to set an example for your kids of what it looks like to get through them. As Healy suggests, it’s important to not always sugarcoat life’s challenges, but to be honest about the fact that sometimes life can be really hard and that there’s not always much that you can do about it other than persevere as best you can.

By: Rachel Fairbank

Source: How Parents Can Encourage Their Child’s Joy

Critics By Eric Barker

Happiness is a tremendous advantage in a world that emphasizes performance. On average, happy people are more successful than unhappy people at both work and love. They get better performance reviews, have more prestigious jobs, and earn higher salaries. They are more likely to get married, and once married, they are more satisfied with their marriage. So looking at the science, what really works when it comes to raising happy kids?

Step 1: Get Happy Yourself

The first step to happier kids is, ironically, a little bit selfish.Extensive research has established a substantial link between mothers who feel depressed and “negative outcomes” in their children, such as acting out and other behavior problems. Parental depression actually seems to cause behavioral problems in kids; it also makes our parenting less effective.And this is not merely due to genetics.

Step 2: Teach Them To Build Relationships

Nobody denies learning about relationships is important — but how many parents actually spend the time to teach kids how to relate to others?

(Just saying “Hey, knock it off” when kids don’t get along really doesn’t go far in building essential people skills.)

Step 3: Expect Effort, Not Perfection

Note to perfectionist helicopter parents and Tiger Moms: cool it. Relentlessly banging the achievement drum messes kids up. Why? Dweck explains: “When we praise children for the effort and hard work that leads to achievement, they want to keep engaging in that process. They are not diverted from the task of learning by a concern with how smart they might — or might not — look.”

Step 4: Teach Optimism

Want to avoid dealing with a surly teenager? Then teach those pre-teens to look on the bright side. Author Christine Carter puts it simply: “Optimism is so closely related to happiness that the two can practically be equated.”

She compares optimists to pessimists and finds optimists:

  1. Are more successful at school, work and athletics
  2. Are healthier and live longer
  3. End up more satisfied with their marriages
  4. Are less likely to deal with depression and anxiety

Step 5: Teach Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a skill, not an inborn trait. Thinking kids will just “naturally” come to understand their own emotions (let alone those of others) doesn’t set them up for success. A simple first step here is to “Empathize, Label and Validate” when they’re struggling with anger or frustration.

Step 6: Form Happiness Habits

We’re on step 6 and it might seem like this is already a lot to remember for you — let alone for a child. We can overcome that with good habits. Thinking through these methods is taxing but acting habitually is easy, once habits have been established. How do you help kids build lasting happiness habits? Carter explains a few powerful methods backed by research:

  1. Stimulus removal: Get distractions and temptations out of the way.
  2. Make It Public: Establish goals to increase social support — and social pressure.
  3. One Goal At A Time: Too many goals overwhelms willpower, especially for kids. Solidify one habit before adding another.
  4. Keep At It: Don’t expect perfection immediately. It takes time. There will be relapses. That’s normal. Keep reinforcing.

Step 7: Teach Self-Discipline

Self-discipline in kids is more predictive of future success than intelligence — or most anything else, for that matter.

Yes, it’s that famous marshmallow test all over again. Kids who better resisted temptation went on to much better lives years later and were happier. What’s a good way to start teaching self-discipline? Help kids learn to distract themselves from temptation.

Step 8: More Playtime

We read a lot about mindfulness and meditation these days — and both are quite powerful. Getting kids to do them regularly however can be quite a challenge. What works almost as well? Playtime isn’t just goofing off. It’s essential to helping kids grow and learn.

Step 9: Rig Their Environment For Happiness

We don’t like to admit it, but we’re all very much influenced by our environment – often more than we realize. Your efforts will be constrained by time and effort, while context affects us (and children) constantly. What’s a simple way to better control a child’s surroundings and let your deliberate happiness efforts have maximum effect? Less TV.

Step 10: Eat Dinner Together

Sometimes all science does is validate those things our grandparents knew all along. Yes, family dinner matters. This simple tradition helps mold better kids and makes them happier too.

Parents of disabled children ‘still not happy‘ with care provided by Dudley Council Express & Star

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Does “Digital Empathy” Work in Virtual Psychotherapy?

Digital empathy is “traditional empathic characteristics such as concern and caring for others expressed through computer-mediated interactions.” A recent study suggests that clients felt their psychotherapist was more empathic and supportive in a remote setting than an in-person setting.

Another study found that virtual group therapy can be as effective as in-person group therapy. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, much of psychotherapy has moved online. Two new studies take a look at whether teletherapy and video conference therapy are helpful. Can empathy connect clients with their therapists despite the virtual divide? Has psychotherapy adapted to moving online? The results may be surprising for some.

In one study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers found that clients felt like their psychotherapist was significantly more empathic and supportive in the remote setting compared to in person. This is important because, depending on the type of psychotherapy, whether a client feels connected to the psychotherapist can be an essential factor in a positive outcome in treatment.

“Digital empathy” has been defined as “traditional empathic characteristics such as concern and caring for others expressed through computer-mediated communications.” Further models of digital empathy have expanded the characteristics of “digital empathy”:

  • Ability to analyze and evaluate another’s internal state (empathy accuracy)
  • A sense of identity and agency (self-empathy)
  • Recognize, understand and predict other’s thoughts and emotions (cognitive empathy)
  • Feel what others feel (affective empathy)
  • Role play (imaginative empathy)
  • Be compassionate to others (empathic concern) via digital media

The study examines online therapy sessions that took place via Skype and WhatsApp video calls. About half the clients used desktops or laptop computers, with the other half using a mix of tablets or smartphones. Almost 90% of the therapists used a computer.

The research found that therapists felt like they could offer the same amount of empathy whether in person or virtually. Surprisingly, patients felt more empathetically connected to and supported by their therapist in the virtual setting, compared to in person. These findings build upon prior therapy research conducted before the pandemic, which found that empathy can indeed reach across virtual borders and be effective in virtual psychotherapy.

Another study from 2021 confirms that group psychotherapy can be done effectively virtually. In fact, some clients found remote group work even more helpful than in person, but that this is not the case for everyone.

These studies do raise the point that personal preference and self-selection may have a lot to do with how comfortable people are with virtual psychotherapy and teletherapy and positive treatment outcomes. Clients who respond well in virtual settings are likely those already at ease with video conferencing technology and are able to feel comfortable and have privacy at home.

The same goes for the therapist. Research has found that therapists who feel most comfortable and effective in offering virtual psychotherapy typically had offered it previously, even before the pandemic.

Psychotherapy has transitioned online effectively for many people, in spite of the limitations of technological issues, sound delays, and the difficulty with perceiving micro-expressions. Clients should feel empowered to assess whether virtual therapy is a good fit for their needs.

It is likely that many clients and therapists will continue to choose to stay online, given the positive results and ability for digital empathy to exist alongside the convenience of scheduling, less commute time, and being able to communicate safely without masks. The good news is that virtual psychotherapy can be offered in a way that clients feel is supportive and effective and will likely remain a mainstay platform for the delivery of psychotherapy.

Neuroscientist: Do These 6 Exercises Everyday To Build Resilience and Mental Strength

When I first began researching anxiety in my lab as a neuroscientist, I never thought of myself as an anxious person. That is, until I started noticing the words used by my subjects, colleagues, friends and even myself to describe how we were feeling — “worried,” “on edge,” stressed out,” “distracted,” “nervous,” “ready to give up.”

But what I’ve found over the years is that the most powerful way to combat anxiety is to consistently work on building your resilience and mental strength. Along the way, you’ll learn to appreciate or even welcome certain kinds of mistakes for all the new information they bring you.

Here are six daily exercises I use to build my resilience and mental strength:

1. Visualize positive outcomes

At the beginning or at the end of each day, think through all those uncertain situations currently in your life — both big and small. Will I get a good performance review? Will my kid settle well in his new school? Will I hear back after my job interview?

Now take each of those and visualize the most optimistic and amazing outcome to the situation. Not just the “okay” outcome, but the best possible one you could imagine.

This isn’t to set you up for an even bigger disappointment if you don’t end up getting the job offer. Instead, it should build the muscle of expecting the positive outcome and might even open up ideas for what more you might do to create that outcome of your dreams.

2. Turn anxiety into progress

Our brain’s plasticity is what enables us to be resilient during challenging times — to learn how to calm down, reassess situations, reframe our thoughts and make smarter decisions.

And it’s easier to take advantage of this when we remind ourselves that anxiety doesn’t always have to be bad. Consider the below:

  • Anger could block your attention and ability to perform, OR it could fuel and motivate you; sharpen your attention; and serve as a reminder of what’s important.
  • Fear could trigger memories of past failures; rob your attention and focus; and undermine your performance, OR it could make you more careful about your decisions; deepen your reflection; and create opportunities for changing direction.
  • Sadness could flatten out your mood and demotivate you, OR it could help you reprioritize and motivate you to change your environment, circumstances and behavior.
  • Worry could make you procrastinate and get in the way of accomplishing goals, OR it could help you fine-tune your plans; adjust your expectations; and become more realistic and goal-oriented.
  • Frustration could stymie your progress and steal your motivation, OR it could innervate and challenge you to do more or better.

These comparisons may seem simplistic, but they point to powerful choices that produce tangible outcomes.

3. Try something new

These days, it’s easier than ever to take a new online class, join a local sports club or participate in a virtual event.

Not too long ago, I joined Wimbledon champ Venus Williams in an Instagram Live workout, where she was using Prosecco bottles as her weights. I’d never done something like that before. It turned out to be a fantastic and memorable experience.

My point is that for free (or only a small fee) you can push your brain and body to try something you never would have considered before. It doesn’t have to be a workout, and it doesn’t have to be hard — it can be something right above your level or just slightly outside of your comfort zone.

4. Reach out

Being able to ask for help, staying connected to friends and family, and actively nurturing supportive, encouraging relationships not only enables you to keep anxiety at bay, but also shores up the sense that you’re not alone.

It isn’t easy to cultivate, but the belief and feeling that you are surrounded by people who care about you is crucial during times of enormous stress — when you need to fall back on your own resilience in order to persevere and maintain your well-being.

When we are suffering from loss or other forms of distress, it’s natural to withdraw. We even see this kind of behavior in animals who are mourning. Yet you also have the power to push yourself into the loving embrace of those who can help take care of you.

5. Practice positive self-tweeting

Lin-Manual Miranda published a book about the tweets he sends out at the beginning and end of each day. In it, he shares what are essentially upbeat little messages that are funny, singsongy and generally delightful.

If you watch him in his interviews, you’ll see an inherently mentally strong and optimistic person. How do you get to be that resilient, productive and creative?

Clearly, part of the answer is coming up with positive reminders. You don’t necessarily need to share them with the public. The idea is to boost yourself up at the beginning and at the end of the day.

This can be difficult for those of us who automatically beat ourselves up at the drop of a hat. Instead, think about what your biggest supporter in life — a partner, sibling, friend, mentor or parent — would tell you, and then tweet or say it to yourself.

6. Immerse yourself in nature

Science has shown again and again that spending time in nature has positive effects on our mental health. A 2015 study, for example, found that it can significantly increased your emotional well-being and resilience.

You don’t need live next to a forest to immerse yourself in nature. A nearby park or any quiet environment with greenery where there aren’t that many people around will work just fine.

Breathe, relax and become aware of the sounds, smells and sights. Use all your senses to create a heightened awareness of the natural world. This exercise boosts your overall resilience as it acts as a kind of restoration of energy and reset to your equilibrium.


By: Wendy Suzuki, Contributor


Wendy Suzuki, PhD, is a neuroscientist and professor of Neural Science and Psychology in the Center for Neural Science at New York University. She is also the author of “Good Anxiety: Harnessing the Power of the Most Misunderstood Emotion.” Follow her on Twitter @wasuzuki.

Source: Neuroscientist: Do these 6 exercises every day to build resilience and mental strength


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