I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about allyship. One of the main things an ally should do is advocate for others. An ally is your voice when you’re not in the room. When I do a training and I’m talking about allyship, one of the tools are used to provide a framework for speaking up, is Follow the ARC.
If you happen to overhear a comment that you feel is harassing, potentially harassing, borderline offensive, or any other form of micro-aggression, it’s important to speak up as an ally. That is one of the key elements of inclusive leadership. But how do you speak up when you witness such a thing? Follow the ARC.
ARC. ARC stands for Ask — Respect — Connect, and provides a tool for difficult conversations. We created the ARC here at Equality Institute to help others approach these conversations from a place of curiosity, not confrontation, reducing the risk of defensiveness from the other party.
Let’s use a real world example of micro-aggression that you may overhear at work: “LGBTQ? What’s the Q? And what’s next, X, Y, and Z?”
Start with the A: Ask. Again, ask from a place of curiosity.
Allies ask good questions when they follow the ARC. And context matters. The place you approach the conversation may depend on your relationship with the person - perhaps you may choose to pull the person aside to follow the ARC privately. Perhaps, if it’s someone who is half-joking or says, “I’m just joking!”, then approach them with a joking-back tone. To be successful with ARC, the place matters and your tone matters.
Here are some conversation starters for the Ask using the example above.:
“The Q means Queer, which used to be hurtful but is now an umbrella term - but
“can you explain what you meant by X, Y, and Z? I’m super confused!”
“did I hear you correctly when you said X, Y, and Z? That would be weird!?”
“do you mind if we talk about your LGBTQ X, Y, Z comment? I don’t get it.”
“did you mean to say LGBTQ XYZ? I may have misunderstood.”
Again, stay in the space of curiosity, not confrontation.
These questions challenge the person to explain themselves, and possibly realize how silly and/or offensive they may have been. As they explain themselves, follow up with the R - Respect. Simply put, respecting means being an active listener. Don’t cross your arms, nod your head, and use verbal cues to indicate that you’re paying attention. Don’t dismiss what the other person is saying. Respectfully listen without interruption. Paraphrase and validate.
After you’ve listened and respected the other person, close the arc with the C - Connect. In the ARC, Connecting means to paraphrase and validate. Here are some ways to connect using the example above:
“Ah yes, you’re saying that the letters are confusing. That’s what I used to think, too…”
“OK, just so I’m clear, you don’t really think there’s an XYZ, just that there are so many letters? I get why you would say that but…”
“So I understand you correctly, you think the letters are over-kill? I remember thinking that, but…”
Now, the other person may still get defensive or begin debating, so go back to the start of the ARC. This can be a cycle and you can’t expect to change “hearts and minds” with every person, but it does have a powerful ability to “call someone out” and gently challenge them to reflect on their word choice.
Allyship is a key component of inclusive leadership and we all have the ability to use our words.