leadership

Follow the ARC to Get Clarity In Any Situation

In a previous post, I talked about how the ARC Method can be useful when you’re in a situation and overhear an inappropriate or potentially harassing comment. The ARC Method can be used to gently call someone out from a place of curiosity, not confrontation.

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The ARC Method can also be used in any situation in which you are looking for clarity. Remember, it’s always better to ask, rather than assume. But, how do you ask?

In the workplace, a perfect example is if you have a coworker who has come out as non-binary and “they-them” and perhaps you’re not quite sure what that means (although it’s not Sam, or any other under-represented person’s job to educate you - but that’s another post for another day…). Let’s take this situation through the ARC. Again, as with the other ARC, context and tone matter! Approach with curiosity, not confrontation!

A is for Ask. In this situation, you are asking questions of your non-binary coworker, Sam. Here are some sample ways to ask for more clarity:

  • “Can you tell me more about which pronouns I should be using now?”

  • “I promise to do my best but it might take me a minute to get the hang of this. How would you feel if I mess up at first?

  • “Do you mind if we chat about this a second? Can you direct me towards a good resource to educate myself about non-binary people?”

R is for Respect. Just as in the previous approach to ARC, respect means that you actively listen, don’t dismiss the answer, and don’t interrupt.

Finally, the C is for Connect. In this case as in the previous ARC, you will be paraphrasing and validating. Here are some conversation starters or ways that you can connect to complete the ARC in the example with your coworker Sam.

  • “OK, just so I’m clear, I’ll be using they-them pronouns for you going forward? Got it!”

  • “So I understand you correctly, I should do my best but you’ll be patient? Thank you!”

  • “Perfect, thanks for letting me know that I should check out the Equality Institute.”

Then MOVE ON! No need to drag out the conversation, although if you need more clarity, go for another round of the ARC. Continue to ARC until you feel like you have the clarity you need to move forward positively.

Follow the ARC to Be a Great Ally

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.

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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.