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Proactive Tips to Address Microaggressions


Imagine you have a left-handed friend. Every time they write in front of you, you go, ‘Using the wrong hand yet again?’ Something like this may seem like a joke to you but your friend may not feel that way, they may feel othered and different.

Microaggressions are like these little comments or actions. They might seem harmless or small on their own but they can leave people hurt, or feeling less-than based on things like their race, gender, or culture.

So, in simple terms, microaggressions are small, often unintentional, actions or words that can hurt someone because they touch on personal and sensitive topics, making them feel out of place. These are not just restricted to your friends, microaggressions could be aimed at colleagues, a new person you meet at a party, etc.


  • Can be verbal or non-verbal, linked to race, gender, culture, sexual orientation
  • Impact seems small but cumulatively creates a hostile environment with rampant systematic stereotypes and biases
  • Examples in the fitness industry include stereotyping fitness levels, promoting diet culture, or making racial insinuations
  • Tips on addressing them include self-educating, listening, using inclusive communication, nurturing respect
  • Responding needs efforts to call out yourself or others when guilty, apologizing and improving

Impact Of Microaggressions

Subtle slights which are often unnoticed or brushed off present in different forms with different ramifications, in the environments like that of the fitness industry, for example, where inclusivity is crucial.

Basically microaggression is a verbal, behavioral or environmental slight that’s very suggestive of a derogatory or negative attitude towards culturally marginalized groups. These are not always intentional, either. So a verbal insult can be an inappropriate comment and a non-verbal gesture can be deliberately avoiding eye contact

The ripple effect of these subtle jabs is profound. They not only harm the individual at the receiving end but also contribute to creating a hostile environment. Over time, these seemingly insignificant actions perpetuate systemic inequalities.

Microaggressions might look like making assumptions about one’s fitness level based on their body size, or using language that indirectly promotes diet culture. They might even manifest as racially insensitive comments or questions that perpetuate stereotypes.

Tips On Addressing Microaggressions

It’s not a matter of being polite but doing the right thing and helping create a welcoming and inclusive environment which needs a proactive approach:

  1. Try to understand the nuances of diversity and inclusion. Become more informed and you will be better equipped at the gym to avoid assumptions.
  1. Before you speak, think. Are you going to say something which is heavily biased?
  1. Use words that respect all individuals, regardless of their gender, race, orientation, or ability. Go beyond words, and make sure there’s a culture of respect in all forms of communication. You must call yourself out, and address any microaggression. Have candid conversations and promote respect for all.
  1. Creating an inclusive environment is an ongoing effort. Track your progress, set benchmarks, and continuously seek feedback.
  1. If someone opens up to you about their experiences with discrimination or microaggressions, don’t push them away. Show them you’re taking them seriously, and then do take them seriously. If you dismiss their experience (especially as if it were an exception, for example), you’re part of the problem and making it worse for them.

Responding To Microaggressions

If you notice it’s aimed at someone else, giving a gentle nudge or even just a small comment to the aggressor about the insensitivity of their remark can make a world of difference for that someone. If you have yourself erred, recognize, apologize, learn and never repeat your mistake. Denial or justification only aggravates the issue.

Fitness professionals can make a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone by taking care of these simple measures.