While we talk a lot about the need to call out the oppressive things people unintentionally say and do, we don't always talk about what to do when you're called out for them yourself. And we should, because the responsibility for making these conversations productive shouldn't fall (as responsibilities unfortunately tend to fall) on the shoulders of oppressed groups. While calling someone out is necessary, it can still be uncomfortable for both parties, and it takes a lot of thoughtfulness to handle these situations properly. Part of being a good ally is responding respectfully and compassionately and taking people's feedback to heart — so here's how to do your part to help make our world a better, more tolerant place.
A microaggression is a small, everyday behavior that contributes to the marginalization of certain groups — for example, telling a woman her clothes are too revealing or expressing pity for someone with a disability. People who commit microaggressions aren't usually trying to put anyone down, but what matters is not the intent but the impact. Think of it this way: If you unintentionally bump into someone on the street, you'd still apologize, right? Same goes with your words.
But a mere "I'm sorry" is far from all you can do. Demonstrating that you've learned something from the experience, promising to do better in the future, and making good on that promise back up your words with actions — and actions are how real, positive change is made. Here are some things to do and remember when you've been called out for microaggressions, even if they were unintentional.