When Ageism Strikes, Just Start Talking
When you encounter ageism in your life it’s natural for your gut reaction to be to escape the situation and process it later, usually alone. However, next time ageism strikes, just start talking.
Ask the person who aimed the ageist attack at you “why?” Ask how they would feel if it was aimed at them. Explain that what they said made you feel hurt, ashamed, or lesser. Talk through what happened, rather than taking it silently.
Often, age-biases are subconscious. People don’t even realize they are doing something detrimental. If you can learn to quickly call someone out, you will shock them. When people are shocked it’s often easier for them to learn a lesson that makes a life-long impact – that sears into their memory. And just keep talking.
Here’s what you can talk about:
Who You Are
Dispel their initial stereotypes about you by giving them factual reference points. Sometimes people don’t even realize they’re stereotyping – so teach them. You’re not just an age, you’re not a generational stereotype, you’re a human-being. You have likes, dislikes, and sharing them with someone concentrated instead on stereotypes will shift the conversation, and the way they view you.
Past Ageism Experiences
Reveal how ageism has impacted you previously. Who impacted you, and how. Share how you felt and reacted. Give them real-world notes about what they just did in. Show them that they aren’t alone in their age biases, and their subconscious desire to call out age stereotypes. Show them that you aren’t reprimanding only them for their actions, but that ageism as a whole needs to be limited and lessened throughout the world. Explain that once they understand that fact, they will become a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem.
Explain how Ageism impacts your emotions. Reveal how internalizing it can live with you for a long time. Explain why you are having a conversation about what just happened right now, rather than taking it with you to unpack later. Tell them that talking it out with them is helping, that they are becoming a part of the solution.
Share research about ageism causing physical health issues for victims. Let them know how talking it out helps. Pull up any articles they should read, tell them where to find resources. Also, give them ideas of how they can study ageism in their inner-circle, how they can launch a coffee talk with multi-generations or attend conferences about ageism with co-workers to learn more.
Don’t stay silent with ageism. Just start talking. If you are unable to strike up an immediate conversation, there are other methods to avoid silence. Reach out to friends, family members, mentors, ageism groups or resources to talk through the experience. Talking about ageism encounters can make a big difference because it doesn’t let you internalize the negativity. Instead, it offers you an outlet to share some of the pains and negativity and turn that into a positive experience. That’s important to your health and overall well-being.