When you have some authority — due to your age, your class, your gender, your race, or other external markers of power — you can intervene against people roughly of your status, or lower, to stop them from harming others.
If you prepare and collect allies, you are unlikely to be hurt. I have advice about how to be safe when you speak out.
Some people are not at peace unless they speak out about injustice. Anytime, anywhere. They are natural first responders for bystander intervention.
If you are that kind of bystander, chances are you do not hold onto pain from these interactions. You do not need to forgive the aggressive person; the target has that burden. You just made it easier. Thank you. Go forth and be safe!
Know your motives for speaking up
For people who must call out the person misbehaving in a public place, what are your motives? Knowing your “why” will help ground you and guide your words. Some motives are less kind than others. Some are less productive than others.
- You do it to show kindness to the target of the aggression.
- You want to support anyone watching, who may also be intimidated.
- You want to force the harm-doer to see their own behavior. This may be in hopes of changing them, or not.
- You want to discourage other people who may be inclined to behave this way.
- You like being right and you are willing to be loud about it.
- You were spoken to that way. It makes you so mad, you must react.
If you are using your power in the support of others, you are being kind. If you use it to support your ego or undo your own pain, you may not feel as good when it is over. If you find yourself rehashing your intervention late into the night, if may have been out of line with what you really wanted to accomplish.
That not-feeling-good is a sign to go back to your “why.” Being clear about this will make all the difference.