Updated: Oct 5, 2022
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As the end of summer approached, many of us prepared for the incoming school year this August. As we begin our journeys into the next month, we can look back and consider how we prepared in August for what’s to come in September.
What changes did we create in our own lives? Did we alter our routines, mindsets, or attitudes? How did we shift our lifestyle to better align our behavior to our value systems?
Now, as we move forward, we can consider what changes we still hope to make. We must accept and appreciate where we are now while still acknowledging a desire for change.
This idea can be challenging, rewarding, and comforting. So, although we can celebrate the improvements we made in August, we must also intentionally consider the changes we hope to accomplish in September.
Discussing Microaggressions through a Trauma-Informed Lens
When we talk about racial injustice, gender inequity, ableism, and other forms of oppression, we often think of obvious scenarios such as slurs, harassment, or exclusion. Most people won’t engage in this kind of oppression.
Instead, they turn to microaggressions, which are everyday insults, invalidations, and other offensive behaviors. Often, the aggressor is unaware of their participation in oppression through microaggressions because their privilege blinds them to how something could be demeaning.
Even after someone points out a microaggression, the aggressor may believe that the harm done was insignificant. To make matters worse, many people with privilege become defensive when approached with the idea that they have engaged in racism, sexism, or oppressive behaviors. Their trauma brain engages, and they need to battle the idea that they are racist, sexist, ablest, homophobic, etc.
This puts us in a difficult scenario, where we want to both acknowledge trauma responses and seek to reduce the harm of re-traumatization.
Micro-interventions: Microresistance and Micro-affirmations
To eliminate microaggressions that we may do, we can use self-awareness, trauma-informed practices, and reflection. To combat microaggressions in others, we can use microresistance or micro-intervention. Microresistance is the daily effort to challenge white privilege and other biases.
Often, when someone says something out of turn at work, other people may respond nonverbally but not address what has happened. When we microresist, we interject to say, “That was not okay,” although we may use different words or methods. When we use micro-affirmations, we can say, “I think this is what you meant to say.”
It is important to note that micro-intervention tends to have a more powerful effect when the aggressor sees the resistor (consciously or subconsciously) as someone equal to them, which is why allyship is essential for creating a safe environment for all. We can speak on our own behalf, but it’s also important to speak up for others. In some situations, you may want to get consent before speaking up for someone else.
The goal of microresistance is to point out which behaviors are inappropriate, reduce re-traumatization, and create a safer environment for all. Let’s explore some examples of microresistance.
When someone takes credit for another person’s idea, you can credit the right person by saying, “I love Rose’s idea about changing how we run community meetings. Thank you, Rose, for that idea!”
If someone is misgendered, you can say, “I agree with Claudia that Kai’s point of view was illuminating. They gave us a lot to think about.”
The examples above are instances of micro-affirmations. We affirm what we know as true and, in doing so, affirm others.
When we microresist, we can also shine a spotlight on what we know as untrue, offensive, or inappropriate. These examples have a greater potential of triggering trauma brain in others, but it also gives them an opportunity to self-reflect. These examples are also more appropriate in situations where the micro-aggression is more severe or more likely to re-traumatize others in the group.
Pause, and repeat back the inappropriate phrase to the aggressor. Ask, “Did you mean to say that?”
You can also ask, “What was the purpose of you saying that?” If possible, you can get more specific by saying, “Was your intention to sound disrespectful?” or “Were you trying to come off as condescending when you said that?”
We have the power to resist white supremacy and the various forms of oppression that come with it. Through micro-intervention, we make it clear through our everyday actions that we do not tolerate racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and all the rest.
5 Ways to Develop Emotional Intelligence
A key characteristic of successful trauma-informed leaders is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, also known as EQ, is a person’s ability to understand and manage their emotions in a positive way.
EQ encompassed skills such as effective communication, empathy, conflict resolution, distress tolerance, and coping strategies. People with higher emotional intelligence tend to foster stronger, more meaningful relationships, manage stressful situations better, and succeed at work and school as a result.
The good news is that emotional intelligence isn’t an innate trait but a learned skill. Here are 5 ways to develop your emotional intelligence.
1 Cultivate self-awareness
When you engage in self-awareness, you are aware of what you think and feel. You can see how your emotions affect your actions and how your behaviors impact those around you. Self-aware people are able to clearly see their strengths and weaknesses and reflect when given criticism about their personality, attitude, or leadership style.
If you want to cultivate better self-awareness, you can:
Journal each day about your thoughts and feelings
Slow down or pause during tense moments
Make a habit of asking yourself, “How do I feel right now?”
Talk to friends or a therapist about your feelings and how they relate to your behavior
2 Increase your social awareness
Trauma-informed leaders are self-aware, but they are also socially aware. That means they understand how their emotions, words, and actions affect others.
To become more socially aware, you can:
Reflect on how other people’s actions affect you, then consider if you act as they do
Ask others how your actions affect them, and actively listen to what they have to say
Observe how others respond when you speak or behave in certain ways
3 Put in the work in your relationships
Like anything that needs to be built, relationships require effort to create and sustain. That applies to personal relationships as much as it does professional ones.
Whether at home or work, you can use these relationship-building skills to increase your emotional intelligence:
Practice calm conflict resolution among team members
Improve your communication skills by clearly articulating what you mean
Praise others and give recognition where it is due
Consider weekly or monthly relationship check-ins, where you discuss areas of improvement in the relationship itself
Treat others with respect, honesty, consideration, and vulnerability
4 Improve your self-management skills
Trauma-informed leaders are often in charge of managing others, but learning how to manage the self may be even more important than managing others. When you succeed in self-management, you are capable of:
Identifying when you experience stress
Remaining emotionally present
Controlling your behavior during a distressing moment
Choosing a positive coping mechanism
Managing your emotions in a healthy way
Leaders who excel at self-management are capable of receiving upsetting information without falling into a trauma response. If they do experience a trauma response, they are able to recognize it and act accordingly to restore executive functioning.
Ultimately, self-management takes repeated practice, although resources such as therapy can help.
5 Embrace presence through mindfulness
Emotionally intelligent people are capable of remaining present without obsessing over the future or ruminating on the past. Mindfulness, the state of being aware, is an essential tool for achieving self-awareness.
Although you can improve your ability to be mindful through meditation, it is also possible to cultivate mindfulness during your day-to-day activities. You can be mindful while eating a meal, exercising, or doing work. When you’re being mindful, you might consider how your body feels, what ideas cross your mind, or what emotions you’re feeling.
Mindfulness can aid us in developing emotional intelligence because it supports self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship building.
Trauma-Informed Spotlight: Irene Macabante
Irene Macabante is the Founder and CEO of the Citrine Consulting Collective. She has over 25 years of experience in branding, marketing, and technology, which she utilizes to drive customer loyalty through positive and memorable spa and wellness experiences.
Ms. Macabante educates spa and wellness brands about trauma sensitivity, and her approach to care brings to light many social issues that the hospitality sector is not immune to.
She is a trauma-informed leader who proves that trauma-informed care is not—and should not be—exclusive to education, healthcare, or social services.
“It’s no secret that the spa industry has long had a problem with diversity and inclusion.”
Thank you for reading Issue 2 of our Trauma-Informed Newsletter! We hope the content in this newsletter will help you learn and grow as you continue on your journey.
If you love free trauma-informed content, be sure to stay up to date with our latest trauma-informed blogs. This month, we released a series on trauma-informed implementation. In it, we explored: