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How To . . .

Unit One: Responding to Questions of Cultural Insensitivity

This installment of our How To series focuses on how listeners and speakers might effectively respond to one another when something that's been said creates concerns about cultural sensitivity, respect, and/or fairness.

Listener – Speaker

  • I find the term you are using makes me uncomfortable. 
  • I support your desire to speak your mind but the language you are using strikes me as disrespectful.
  • I am interested in your perspective, but  the way you are approaching this topic  promotes hostility not understanding.
  • Did you need to make your point by using that language?  
  • Your understanding of this subject is important to me, but when you present your information this way you turn me off to learning more about your ideas.
  •  My judgment is not about you, it is about the language we are using.  
  • I think language is important, but I  appreciate how difficult it can be to communicate.
  • Statements or language usage can make a speaker's intentions misunderstood. Did I understand you to mean……? 
  • I don’t want to take your comments/terms out of context.  Did you mean to suggest that women/minorities/gays…..? 
  • I hope I am not being too sensitive, but…

Speaker – Listener

  • My meaning and usage is technical but I am open to further discussion.
  • Give me a second, I have never had someone ask me that question.
  • I’m not sure I understand your position, but I want to explore your concerns.
  • You raise a good point, but we won’t have time to examine this idea until next week.
  • Sounds like we should discuss these terms in greater detail.
  • Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain myself further.
  • Language is important, but thank you for not jumping to conclusions about my intentions.
  • I try and keep up on language usage and what might be considered terms that are culturally insensitive. I apologize if my words were offensive, that was not my  intention.
  • Thank you for not taking my remarks out of context.  I was trying to be provocative not offensive.

This list of possible responses is meant to open up possibilities for more effective communication. We welcome your feedback and suggestions on these or other approaches.

Last Updated: 4/9/14